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Monday, September 2, 2013 - 11:30am

Two Join Governor's Race

In the space of one weekend, Gov. Nathan Deal has gained two new challengers for next year’s gubernatorial contest.

State Schools Superintendent, John Barge, will vie with Deal for the GOP nomination. And former state Senator Connie Stokes will seek the Democratic nomination.

The GOP controls all statewide offices. Deal is heavily favored to win, according to Tom Crawford, who edits the Georgia Report, an online political digest.

But he says it’s an election that can be good for a candidate with nothing to lose or one who’s looking for exposure.

And he says the Democrats have to field a candidate as the party re-invents itself.

“If you hope to be an effective opposition party, you need to have a credible candidate out there, raising the issues, raising criticism, you know, forcing the other side to justify the sorts of policy decisions they’ve been making,” Crawford said in an interview.

Along with Barge, Dalton Mayor David Pennington is also challenging Gov. Deal for the GOP nomination.

While the 2014 gubernatorial is 15 months away, Deal has been in campaign mode for a while. He's been peppering his speeches and appearances with tell-tale phrases, particularly about jobs.

He told a chamber of commerce group in early Jul that job creation is his number one goal. And he touted data that show Georgia’s added 177,000 jobs since he became Governor.

“You’re going to get tired of me saying that my number one goal is the creation of jobs in this state and making this state the best state in the nation in which to do business,” he told the group.

Experts say Deal has high ratings among Republican voters.