Coming as it did on one of the newsiest legislative days of the year, the word that Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker plans to file the paperwork shortly to start raising money for the race caught many observers off guard. Former state adjutant general David Poythress is the only announced Democrat in the race, but most of the speculation, especially in recent days, has centered around former Gov. Roy Barnes.
Barnes is said to be still considering what would be his fourth governor’s race, and could take until midyear to decide. But having an African-American who has won three statewide elections in the race deprives the former Democratic governor of the leisure he formerly enjoyed in making up his mind.
Ironically, Barnes reportedly was meeting this week with a delegation of black leaders, including former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, who wanted to encourage him to run. The meeting was scheduled before Baker’s announcement.
One key to Baker’s success could be how well a law-and-order campaign will play among African-American voters. As the state’s chief legal officer, Baker angered many in his base by opposing the release of Genarlow Wilson, serving a mandatory 10-year sentence for consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17, and his defense of the state’s voter ID law. (Baker did split with Gov. Sonny Perdue earlier this year, however, refusing to write an amicus brief in a US Supreme Court case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.)
With crime on the rise as the economy sours, Baker is hoping an anti-crime message will play well among voters of all races. One interesting question is whether former US Sen. Zell Miller, who’s friendly with Baker, will openly support him, especially if Barnes gets in. In recent years, Miller has mostly endorsed Republicans.Now that's the question I have. Will Miller publicly support Baker in his quest to become govenor. If he does, baker would have a huge advantage over the others in attracting rural voters who are still fond of Miller in the primary. The way I look at it, if baker or any other democrat can get a huge chuck of rural votes, it will pay huge dividends for them in the fall of 2010.