By Shannon McCaffrey
ATLANTA -- A commercial real estate executive has jumped into the race for Georgia governor and thrown $2 million of his own money into a bid for the Republican nomination.
Ray Boyd told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was inspired to run by the lack of ethics among the state's political leadership.
Wealthy political outsiders don't have a track record of winning big elections in Georgia but in a year when anti-incumbent sentiment is high, Boyd's deep pockets could shake up the crowded race where seven Republicans are scrambling for every vote and a single percentage point could matter.
"This is not a token effort," the 67-year-old political newcomer from Rutledge, Ga., said.
"That is all my money in there. I am not letting anyone else put up a nickel of their own."
Boyd said he is "sympathetic" to the anti-government tea party movement and supports term limits, states rights and reining in government spending.
"From that perspective I am a tea party person," Boyd said. "But I don't agree with some of the fringe elements."
Boyd enters a crowded field shaping up for the state's July 20 primary. Most of the seven Republican candidates vying to replace Gov. Sonny Perdue have long political resumes and have been campaigning for months.
But Boyd's $2 million gambit could stir things up. In terms of available cash, he is virtually even with state insurance commissioner John Oxendine, the GOP money leader to date, who has about $2 million in the bank and has been running for about two years now.
Georgia law allows candidates to funnel an unlimited amount of their own money into political races. But under a law adopted in 2006, candidates may only recoup $250,000 of those funds.
Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said moneyed candidates with no prior political experience don't have a history of doing well in the state.
He pointed to conservative commentator Herman Cain's failed primary bid for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and Guy Millner, a multimillionaire businessman who ran for governor of Georgia in 1994 in 1998 and U.S. senator in 1996. He lost all three races.
"The lesson has been you can spend a lot of money and still lose," Bullock said.
But Boyd said the political winds this year aren't favorable to incumbents.
IN THE RACE
Ray Boyd, businessman
State Sen. Eric Johnson, of Savannah
State Rep. Austin Scott, of Tifton
Attorney General Thurbert Baker
Former Gov. Roy Barnes
Leader DuBose Porter
Former Georgia National Guard Gen. David Poythress
"People are paying attention now who have never paid attention before," he said.
He said he surveyed the field of candidates for the state's highest office and found them all "tainted" by either ethics problems or long political careers.
"Everyone is a veteran of politics who's been grooming themselves for a lifetime position," he said.
And he said he was appalled that after the "meltdown" at the state Capitol late last year over allegations that then-House Speaker Glenn Richardson had an affair with a utility lobbyist state leaders are pushing ethics legislation that lacks teeth.
"There is a serious lack of ethics in government," he said.
Boyd spent 35 years in the commercial real estate business and 10 years in the U.S. Air Force.
Boyd's $2 million pledge was first detailed in a campaign disclosure filed with the Ethics Commission. He said he's ready for what lies ahead.
"I am prepared for the meat grinder that will start from both sides," he said.
Also on Tuesday, another GOP gubernatorial hopeful, Eric Johnson, launched a campaign ad, the first television spot to debut in the hotly-contested race. Set to air in markets across Georgia later this week, the ad touts Johnson's record creating jobs. Johnson is former president pro tempore of the state Senate.
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