ATLANTA -- Former Gov. Roy Barnes wants his old job back and says that as governor he would restore sanity to the Capitol, while former Secretary of State Karen Handel says her leadership -- not just her gender -- distinguishes her from the rest of the field in the governor's race.
Barnes qualified to run as a Democrat on Wednesday. Aside from his portrait, which still hangs next to the governor's office, Barnes hasn't been seen in the building much since he was ousted by Republican Sonny Perdue in 2002 after serving one term.
"I don't like what's going on down here," Barnes said. "I'm ready to return sanity and the things that have always made us great. Concentrate on the basic things that create jobs and we'll prosper. Continue to make us the laughingstock of the nation and we won't create jobs. There's a direct connection."
The 62-year-old Cobb County native acknowledged that he was rejected by voters eight years ago because he had made some mistakes.
"I did some things wrong, there's no question about that," Barnes said. "I didn't listen or slow down enough to explain why I had to make some difficult decisions."
But Barnes said he created jobs and a homestead exemption, lowered class sizes and increased teacher pay.
"Those things sound pretty good right now," Barnes quipped. "Those things sell and resonate. If I didn't think I could win, I wouldn't waste my money."
Handel stopped by her old workplace at the secretary of state's office to qualify as a Republican candidate for governor. On the steps of the Capitol beneath the statue of Tom Watson, Handel touted her public and private record and said that what separates her from her opponents -- other than her gender -- is conservative, ethical leadership.
"There are clear differences between me and the other guys running for governor," Handel said slyly. "My candidacy is not weighed down by a host of ethical lapses and seemingly endless ethical investigations."
Handel, 48, served on the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, chaired the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and was an aide to Perdue before she was elected secretary of state in 2006. She left her post in December and announced she would seek to become Georgia's first woman governor.
Perdue is prevented by term limits from running again, which has thrown the contest for governor wide open. Seven Republicans and four Democrats are vying for the job.
Eight others have also qualified this week: Republicans Jeff Chapman, Nathan Deal, Eric Johnson, Ray McBerry, Otis Putnam and Democrats Carl Camon, DuBose Porter and David Poythress.
Ten of the 13 seats for the U.S. House of Representatives are being contested. Rep. John Lewis drew a challenger on Wednesday, Republican attorney Fenn Little of Atlanta.
Real estate executive Ray Boyd, who has pledged $2 million of his own money in his bid for the state's top job, was blocked by Republican officials from qualifying on the GOP ticket after he refused to sign a pledge swearing allegiance to the state party. Boyd said he plans to start gathering signatures to run as an independent. Officials said Boyd would need at least 51,320 valid signatures to do so.
Republican Brian Kemp, who was appointed to fill Handel's term as secretary of state, qualified for re-election on Wednesday.
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.
On the Net:
Georgia Secretary of State: http://www.sos.ga.gov