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Barred from GOP ballot, Boyd to run as independent

Photo by John Amis

Photo by John Amis

ATLANTA -- Election season kicked off Monday in Georgia with some political theater that could scramble the Republican race for governor.

Ray Boyd -- who's pledged $2 million of his own money to win the governor's mansion -- was blocked by Republican officials from qualifying on the GOP line because he refused to sign a pledge swearing allegiance to the state party.

The blunt real estate executive told reporters Monday he plans to start gathering signatures to run as an independent.

"They've left me no other choice," he said.

Boyd was followed by a throng of television cameras and reporters as he made his way to the Republican party qualifying table. An awkward standoff with party leaders ensued after Boyd said he wouldn't sign a party oath. GOP officials said the pledge is required by state party rules.

Boyd offered three alternative pledges which were rejected in short order.

"Mr. Boyd, I'm not going to argue with you," GOP party lawyer Anne Lewis said. "We won't be able to qualify you."

Officials said Boyd would need at least 51,320 valid signatures to qualify as an independent. Those signatures would be due by July.

Boyd says he won't swear loyalty to a party that he says has strayed from conservative principles he believes in. Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart accused the political newcomer of "grandstanding."

Boyd's showdown with the GOP was one of the few moments of drama in a day that was filled with pep rallies and waving campaign signs as candidates for hundreds of officers filed into the state Capitol to file paperwork and pay a fee needed to get on the ballot.

Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson drew several hundred supporters to a short rally after qualifying to run for a second term.

"The good Lord willing and the creek don't rise," Isakson said.

Isakson was introduced by Georgia's senior senator, Republican Saxby Chambliss, who in 2008 survived a runoff to keep his seat.

"Everybody ready to get the political year started?" Chambliss asked.

Democrat R.J. Hadley qualified on Monday to challenge Isakson. State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond has also said he will seek the Democratic nod.

In the race for governor, former state Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson of Savannah was surrounded by a crowd of supporters after qualifying. He touted his record of support for small business and tax cuts and a reputation of fiscal conservatism.

"We've done everything we said we were going to do. But there's still a lot to do. It's too important to turn back ... or be turned back by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi ... or (Democratic gubernatorial hopeful) Roy Barnes!"

DuBose and Carol Porter -- the husband and wife Democratic duo running for governor and lieutenant governor -- were greeted by chants of "We want the Porters!" as they each qualified for their races.

"We've gotta get rid of the corruption and start solving our problems," Carol Porter said, citing transportation, water and education.

DuBose Porter, the House minority leader, took a not-so-subtle jab at the gubernatorial front runner, Barnes, the state's former governor.

"Democrats have got to decide whether we are going to move forward or stay in the past," he said. "I'm the one who stayed in the trenches, who rebuilt our caucus."

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, both Republicans, also qualified for re-election on Monday.

Democrat Ken Hodges moved forward with his bid for attorney general.

So did most congressional incumbents.

Democratic U.S. Reps. John Lewis, Hank Johnson, David Scott, Sanford Bishop, Jim Marshall and John Barrow have filed the paperwork to seek another term. Republican U.S. Reps. Tom Price, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston also qualified to run again.

In the 7th congressional district, where John Linder is retiring, three Republicans had qualified to run on Monday, including state Rep. Clay Cox.

In the state's other open congressional seat, the 9th district in north Georgia, three Republicans filed paperwork to run Monday. They are state Rep. Bobby Reese and former state Sens. Lee Hawkins and Bill Stephens.

Georgia's primary is July 20. The general election is Nov. 2.

Qualifying lasts until noon on Friday.

In order to qualify, candidates must show that they live in the state or the relevant district and pay a fee. Party officials must submit qualifying information on candidates to the Secretary of State's office.

Georgia's primary is July 20. The general election is Nov. 2.

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Associated Press Writer Errin Haines contributed to this report