Twelve-year Attorney General Thurbert Baker will enter the 2010 race for governor, a move that could make the Democratic side of the contest every bit as complicated as the Republican one.
Jeff DiSantis, acting as a spokesman for Baker, said the attorney general has prepared the paperwork necessary to start raising money, and will file official notice shortly after the Legislature adjourns.
“This is not a contingent discussion. This is not based on whoever else is running,” DiSantis said. “It doesn’t need to be couched.”
Baker, an African-American, won more votes than anyone else on the Democratic ticket in 2006, his last statewide election.
His intention is to run a tough-on-crime campaign. More details to come.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes and House Minority Leader DuBose Porter of Dublin, who are white, are already contemplating the race. David Poythress, former adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, who is also white, is the only announced entry.
Baker’s entry could make competition for the African-American vote, which now dominates the Democratic primary, extremely tight.
And it could make a runoff much more likely. With five GOP candidates already in the contest, Republicans have conceded a runoff, which eats both time and money,. Democrats had planned to take tactical advantage of a GOP runoff by trying to reach a consensus on their ticket.
That seems more unlikely now. Democrats immediately expressed concern.
“The last thing that the Georgia Democratic party needs is at this point in time is an extensive, controversial and divisive primary season, especially in the governor’s race,” said state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, who is also vice-chairman of the party.
A Baker decision to run for governor would also open up one more constitutional office for a high-cost, statewide race. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Rob Teilhet of Smyrna said Wednesday afternoon that he would file for the AG’s spot later this week.
Republican names immediately put into circulation include Robert Highsmith, former counsel to Gov. Sonny Perdue; state Sen. Preston Smith of Rome; and state Sen. Seth Harp of Midland.
Secretary of State Karen Handel and state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, both Republicans, will vacate their jobs to run for governor. State Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, a Democrat, has said he won’t run for another term.
That leaves state School Superintendent Kathy Cox and Thurmond as the only constitutional officers remaining in place. And Thurmond is looking at either governor or lieutenant governor.
For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.