ATLANTA - Veteran Augusta prosecutor Danny Craig switched political parties Monday when he was among the first candidates to qualify for this fall's election by running as a Republican.
Others throwing their hat into the ring included two former legislators hoping for a comeback: ex-Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta, and ex-Rep. George DeLoach, R-Hephzibah. The biggest statewide race this year, for the U.S. Senate, also drew a crowd with four more days for candidates to sign up.
Mr. Craig said his change of colors was based on a conclusion that Republicans more closely reflected the conservative tilt of the district.
"This is something I felt best for me and the office based on the conservative beliefs I have," he said.
Local GOP activist Dave Barbee said the party had lobbied Mr. Craig to switch when he ran for re-election four years ago.
So far, Mr. Craig hasn't drawn an opponent. But two other incumbents have, facing veteran lawmakers who were unseated in the last election.
Mr. Walker, who was the majority leader of the state Senate when he was defeated by Republican Randy Hall, is striving for the seat of state Sen. Don Cheeks, R-Augusta. A federal court redrew the district lines, moving Mr. Walker's residence from Mr. Hall's district and into Mr. Cheeks'. But Mr. Walker will first have to face newcomer Ed Tarver in the July 20 Democratic primary.
Mr. Walker said he is sure Democrats will take back the majority in the state's upper chamber.
"I can't fathom being in the minority," he said.
Mr. Cheeks didn't qualify for re-election Monday, but Mr. Tarver officially entered the race. And Mr. Hall qualified for his seat, so far without opposition. The freshman Republican has a different prediction.
"I fully expect that the margin of power in the (state) Senate will be more in favor of the Republicans after this election," Mr. Hall said.
Mr. DeLoach also ended up in a district with an incumbent different from the one who beat him. Rep. Pete Warren, D-Augusta, toppled Mr. DeLoach in 2002, but now the Republican is running against Rep. Alberta Anderson, D-Waynesboro. Mr. DeLoach and Ms. Anderson qualified Monday.
Sparks were already flying in the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being given up by Zell Miller, a Democrat.
U.S. Rep. Mac Collins said the GOP primary came down to a race between himself, a conservative, and U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson, whom he labeled a moderate.
"This is no time to send a moderate to the United States Senate from Georgia," Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Isakson dismissed Mr. Collins' characterization, pointing to his support of President Bush's tax cuts, judicial appointees and the war on terrorism.
"I'm a conservative that delivers - always have been, always will be," Mr. Isakson said.
Businessman Herman Cain said his campaign was picking up momentum, coming in second in polls and fund raising. He has visited 90 counties.
"The biggest thing that is resonating with people is I'm not a politician. I'm a problem solver," he said.
The Democratic side of the race, also expected to draw several candidates by the end of the week, started out at a brisk pace. Both U.S. Rep. Denise Majette and state Sen. Mary Squires, D-Norcross, qualified Monday.
Ms. Squires highlighted her credentials as a single working mother who is "like Georgia voters." Originally from Augusta, Ms. Squires said she understood the value of taking her campaign to the entire state.
"I know that you don't win a statewide race by concentrating on Atlanta," she said.
Others qualifying include: U.S. Rep. Max Burns, R-Sylvania; state Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling; state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem; state Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta; and newcomer candidate for the Public Service Commission Roger "Bulldozer" Dozier, R-Thomson.
The period for qualifying continues through noon Friday.