ATLANTA - Lines of politicians and political hopefuls filled the state Capitol on Wednesday, Day One of qualifying for this fall's state elections.
Amid impromptu political rallies, rehearsed stump speeches and colorful balloons, banners and campaign T-shirts, there were few surprises as long-announced candidates for state office signed the dotted line to make their efforts official.
All three Republicans seeking to oust Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes - former state Sen. Sonny Perdue, state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko and former Cobb County Commission Chairman Bill Byrne - signed up, as did Mr. Barnes.
House Speaker Tom Murphy took his customary spot at the head of the line in the House chambers, where Democrats were qualifying.
Mr. Murphy, 78, the longest-serving speaker in the nation, had toyed with the idea of not seeking re-election in a district where he barely won two years ago.
"I've never had so many people calling me, begging me and beating on me to run again," said Mr. Murphy, of Bremen, who said he'll campaign harder than he did in 2000, when he took his race for granted.
Bill Heath, the Republican who nearly unseated Mr. Murphy, qualified Wednesday to challenge him again.
Mrs. Schrenko waved a stack of invoices she plans to mail to several of Mr. Barnes' supporters.
She said the Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, of Augusta, and Rep. Charlie Smith, the governor's House floor leader from St. Marys, have all said they would pay her $3,800 qualifying fee if she left her job to challenge Mr. Barnes.
"Are you men of your word?" she asked. "If you are, I will have (almost) $32,000 in qualifying fees."
This year's elections will be the first held using maps drawn by the General Assembly during two lengthy special sessions last year.
Crafted by the Legislature's Democratic majority, the maps were intended to make sure Democrats hold their majorities in the state House and Senate and close the gap in Georgia's U.S. House delegation, where Republicans enjoy an 8-3 advantage.
Democratic candidates Charles Walker Jr. and Chuck Pardue, of Augusta, qualified for the new 12th District congressional seat, along with Democrat Tony Center, of Savannah and Republicans Barbara Dooley, of Athens, and Max Burns, of Sylvania.
Woodrow Lovett, a Republican 12th District candidate from Sardis, announced Wednesday that he would not qualify and had withdrawn from the race.
"I've had very few campaign contributions, and I just felt for the good of the party, it was best not to continue on," Mr. Lovett said.
Republican Sue Burmeister, of Augusta, qualified for former Speaker Pro Tem Jack Connell's District 96 state House seat, as did Democrats Robert W. "Bo" Hunter III and David Bell, both Augusta attorneys.
Mr. Connell is not seeking re-election.
Incumbent Republican Rep. George DeLoach, of Hephzibah, picked up a Republican challenger for the District 99 state House seat with the qualifying of Mary Oglesby, of Hephzibah.
Republican Otis Smith, of Augusta, qualified for the District 97 House seat as did Democrat Quincy Murphy, also of Augusta.
Incumbent Republican state Sen. Joey Brush, of Appling, will have a Democratic challenger for the District 24 Senate seat in Anna Hargis, of Harlem.
In Columbia County, incumbent county Commissioner Frank Spears and county Planning Commission member Steve Brown filed to run for the District 1 commission seat. Also, retired banker Andy Kingery will face commercial builder Ron Cross for a commission seat, said Republican Party Chairman Alvin Starks.
Candidates qualifying Wednesday:
SECRETARY OF STATE
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, NORTHERN DISTRICT
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, SOUTHERN DISTRICT
CONGRESS, DISTRICT 9
CONGRESS, DISTRICT 12
STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 22
STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 23
STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 24
STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 79
STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 80
STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 96
STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 97
STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 98
STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 99
STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 100
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE, AUGUSTA CIRCUIT
RICHMOND COUNTY STATE COURT JUDGE
Staff Writers Sylvia Cooper and Jason B. Smith contributed to this article.
Reach Doug Gross at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.