Baker, others officially in race for governor

DECATUR -- Attorney General Thurbert Baker and insurance commissioner John Oxendine have made their run for governor official.

Baker, a Democrat, announced his candidacy Thursday in the historic courthouse in downtown Decatur, calling for a change in the Republican-led statehouse.

''It's time to fix our problems,'' said Baker, flanked by red, white and blue banners. ''It's time for a governor who talks less and does more for people.''

He has not yet formally qualified for the race but planned to file his papers at the state Capitol later Thursday after campaign events in Athens and Covington, said spokesman Edward Chapman.

Baker will face several Democrats in the primary, including former Gov. Roy Barnes, who qualified Wednesday. If he wins, Baker would be the first black governor in the state's history.

The men join a crowded race to replace Gov. Sonny Perdue, who is serving his second and final term. Other candidates were expected to announce before qualifying closes at noon Friday.

Baker has been attorney general since 1997. Before that, he served five terms in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Oxendine, a Republican, qualified Thursday morning at the Gold Dome, announcing his campaign under the Capitol rotunda. He called for eliminating the state's personal and corporate income tax and improving the state's schools.

''I think this will stimulate our economy and attract jobs to Georgia,'' Oxendine said. ''I think what the citizens want are jobs.''

Oxendine also said Georgia must solve a looming water shortage by building reservoirs in the north, reaching an agreement to end lawsuits with Alabama and Florida over Georgia's water use and attempting to secure water from the Tennessee River.

''We have a crisis because our water supply is unreliable,'' he said.

Baker vowed to fix the state's transportation woes, raise student test scores by funneling more money to public education and bring 100,000 new jobs to the state. He also promised to pay more attention to rural Georgia, referring to his upbringing in a small North Carolina town where he picked tobacco to help his mother with household bills.

''The answer won't come from the same politician who makes the same promises,'' he said. ''The answer is not in our past. The answer is in our people.''

Baker wasn't the only Democrat to announce during the day. Democratic state Rep. Randal Mangham, a Decatur attorney, said Thursday he is running for governor.

In other races, Maryline Blackburn, a Grammy nominee who beat out former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for Miss Alaska in 1984, has qualified to run for the Georgia House. State Rep. Austin Scott, who had announced he would run for governor, said Thursday he's running for the U.S. House seat held by Democrat Jim Marshall.

Georgia's primary is July 20, and the general election is Nov. 2.

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.