He came out swinging.
Former Attorney General Michael Bowers formally launched his campaign for governor Tuesday with a statewide fly-around, aggressively answering everything from a 10-year affair with a former employee to challenging race-based preferences.
State Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, said he thought Mr. Bowers campaign was now "on the right track. Let me tell you why I say that - because Mike Bowers is a fighter. Mike Bowers has fought for this state and has fought for this country."
Mr. Williams introduced Mr. Bowers at the Augusta airport rally and his family and secretary accounted for five of the 14 people who came to the event.
Mr. Bowers said he was not disappointed in the crowd and others said it was a good crowd for an airport event. Mr. Bowers acknowledged he was still carrying some baggage on this trip from his admitted affair June 5.
"Somebody said not too long ago, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Mr. Bowers said. "If that's the case, Bette Rose (his wife) and I are stronger today than we were a couple weeks ago."
But he quickly moved on to his plan to cut taxes an unspecified amount by rooting out waste in state government.
"Don't think for one moment it can't be done. I can rattle off all kinds of changes that can be made in Georgia's government that would put money in your pocket and it will not stop one heartbeat of state government."
Finding that fraud, which Mr. Bowers said an outside audit of state departments would reveal, could also provide money for more prisons to reduce crime.
"If you keep the bad guys locked up, bad guys have a tendency to commit crimes, crime will go down," Mr. Bowers said.
While he applauded President Clinton's recent emphasis on confronting the nation's racial problems, he said the solution was not race-based or gender-based preference programs.
"I think we need to look elsewhere for a solution," Mr. Bowers said. "The solution is in the Declaration of Independence, which said `We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal' ... Everybody is going to be treated the same, based on merit. We're not going to decide who gets into the University of Georgia based on skin color. We're not going to decide who gets a state contract based on skin color or gender or any other such criteria."
Prejudice is not dead, he said, "but it's isolated. That may not have been the case at one time but today I will bet you anything I own that all over this state most folks would say, `Uh, uh, we're not going to put up with that. No sir.'^"
Mr. Bowers also frankly confronted recent allegations he misused campaign funds for travel, likening those charges to the end product of hay passing through a horse.
Among the Augusta crowd was former Richmond County GOP chairman Bob Gardner, who said the effects of the affair might prove fleeting.
"If he can get through this and people accept his apology, he'll get a broad spectrum of support," Mr. Gardner said.
It is that battling image that MR. Bowers now stakes his campaign on.
"I'll take my swings. And I'll take my blows. And you won't hear me whine," he said.
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