Former Gov. Roy Barnes said Tuesday that he has yet to decide whether to run again in 2010, but said he believes the Democratic field is lacking.
Speaking to reporters outside the state Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson fund raiser, Barnes said he’s still considering his options and looking for a vision. He said he hopes to announce “around” June 1.
“Do I have a pleasant life?” he said. “I do. I enjoy going home every night. At the same time, I love this state.”
Barnes, first elected in 1998 and defeated in 2002, said his wife, Marie, has given her support for another campaign, as has their three children.
As for the three announced Democratic candidates – House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin), Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Adjutant Gen. David Poythress – Barnes was pleasant but biting.
“Any of the ones who are Democrats, and most of the ones who are Republicans, are honorable folks,” he said. “I have nothing but highest praise for folks who will put themselves out. I know what it’s like to deal with the press and lack of privacy.”
And now for the bite …
“There’s a verse in the Old Testament that says people perish where there is no vision,” Barnes said. “I’m looking for vision and in that category I haven’t seen it yet. It’s not that they’re not good folks, it’s that we can do better.
About that last part – “we can do better” – and what message it would send to the state’s voters should he decide not to run and leave the party with a slate that he obviously feels is lacking, Barnes said it should push voters to push candidates.
“Push them to create a vision,” he said. “Push whoever runs to create a vision. A vision that they feel passionately about.”
Porter didn’t seem to believe himself lacking in vision.
“When I hit the floor as governor, I will have a package for transportation that I will work everyday for,” he said. “We haven’t had that.”
He said he would work to bring the state up the national rankings in education and fight to get Atlanta “out of gridlock.”
He’ll fight for that, he said, whether Barnes is in the race or not.
“The problems he had before are still there,” Porter said. “I’ve supported education, teachers, smaller classrooms. The problems he had before are still there. That doesn’t change what we do in our race.”
Those problems, as Porter put it, would refer to the anger that erupted between teachers and Barnes in his initial term as governor and would appear to be one Porter is prepared to exploit.
Baker and Poythress were less inclined to directly criticize Barnes.
“I’m looking forward to debating the issues and debating the future of Georgia regardless of who’s in the race,” Baker said. “I have to focus on what I can do to move Georgia forward. We’re going to engage that debate, it doesn’t matter who’s in the race. We’re going to run hard and we’re going to win.”
Baker, who also served five terms as a state lawmaker, said he believes Democrats have stumbled across “a golden moment in Georgia’s history and I look forward to leading thi state.”
He, too, spoke of the need for a vision.
“What we’re going to need in Georgia is someone not afraid to make tough decisions,” Baker said.
Poythress stressed his belief that he has the experience, the leadership, the record and, yes, the vision, to win next year.
But, at least he was willing to admit that should Barnes get in the race, everything changes.
“Roy Barnes has served this state ably,” Poythress said. “If he gets in this race he will be a very serious contender.”
It will not, however, change his plans.
“I’ve said since day one I will be in this race until the last day,” Poythress said.