ATLANTA -- Business was brisk Monday as candidates cued up to qualify for this year's partisan elections.
Politicians were in line for Republican and Democratic primaries at 9 a.m. at the Capitol when the weeklong qualifying period officially began.
Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston were the first through the door on the Republican side. On the Democratic side of the Capitol, congressmen David Scott and Hank Johnson were among the first.
Deal summed up what most incumbents listed as their reasons for seeking re-election.
"I didn't finish everything that I would like to complete before I leave office as governor," he told reporters.
Campaign consultants and political junkies hovered on the edges as candidates greeted friends and posed for photos with supporters while waiting their turn to submit a check and paperwork to officially get on the May 20 ballot. One floor up, the House and Senate were in the midst of the busiest day of the legislative session so far in which dozens of bills will be voted on, and those that fail to pass will be dead.
GOP hopefuls signing up before noon included congressmen Jack Kingston of Savannah, Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Paul Broun of Athens and former Secretary of State Karen Handel for U.S. senator, Allen Fort and Fitz Johnson for superintendent of schools, Public Service Commissioners Doug Everett and Lauren "Bubba" McDonald for re-election, and John Stone, Rick Allen and Delvis Dutton for the 12th congressional district.
One more candidate has announced intentions to qualify for the 12th District race, Augusta businessman Eugene Yu, who dropped out of the U.S. Senate contest last week and plans to file his paperwork Wednesday for the district election.
"I think it's going to be a very rough and divisive race," Stone said, adding that a four-man primary almost ensures a runoff in July that could drain GOP campaign treasuries while Democratic incumbent John Barrow sits on his cash.
Barrow told reporters divisiveness would be the key issue in the general election, too.
"The issue is always the same. Do we need more partisanship in Congress or less bipartisanship?" he said, moments after filing his own re-election forms.
Among other early Democrats were Branko Radulovacki of Atlanta and Todd Robinson of Columbus for U.S. senator, Connie Stokes of Decatur for lieutenant governor, Liz Johnson of Statesboro and former Athens Rep. Keith Heard for insurance commissioner, and Robbin Shipp of Atlanta for labor commissioner.
Although Republicans hold every statewide elected office, Democrats say the end of the week will show they have recruited a full slate of viable candidates.
Heard said he's not just filling a spot on the ballot for the benefit of the state party.
"We can win it, and we're in it to win it," said the insurance agent who lost his state House seat two years ago in a primary to Rep. Spencer Frye. "Anybody that knows me knows that Keith Heard doesn't just go through the motions."
Democratic Party Chairman DuBose Porter credited the excitement generated by Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn's candidacies as creating grassroots enthusiasm and spurring other candidates to step forward. Carter, the grandson of ex-President Jimmy Carter who is challenging Deal, and Nunn, the daughter of ex-Sen. Sam Nunn who is running for the Senate, have the name recognition and fundraising connections to provide long coattails.
"No one imagined you'd have the momentum and excitement we've got in the slate of candidates running," Porter said.
Qualifying is open all week until noon Friday. Many incumbents still haven't qualified, and only two of the 17 announced candidates for state superintendent of schools have qualified.
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