The 2018 race for Georgia governor has officially begun

We have our first candidate for Georgia governor in the wide-open 2018 race.

Libertarian Doug Craig said he will run for the state's highest office, and promised to be the third-party candidate with a "strong message, not a watered down message."

"We always have a shot," he said. "But my goal is to run the campaign at a different level than others have - radio ads, TV commercials."

A veteran of the Gulf War who operated nuclear reactors for the U.S. Navy, Craig runs a sheet-metal fabricator shop in Atlanta's southside. As former chair of Georgia's Libertarian Party, he backed the failed candidacies of Andrew Hunt for governor and Amanda Swafford for Senate.

The race for the state's top job is expected to be a free-for-all contest.

Gov. Nathan Deal cannot run for a third term, and at least a half-dozen high-profile Republicans are contemplating a bid to succeed him. Across the aisle, Democrat Jason Carter might mount another campaign, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams have not ruled out a run.

Craig backs the same anti-tax, more limited government and pro-gun rights platform that other Libertarians support. But to say his candidacy is a long shot would be an understatement. The two Libertarians who ran for governor and Senate in 2014 barely mustered 100,000 votes between them, and their fundraising power is negligible.

His reference to a "watered down message" may have been a shot at Hunt, who flustered some fellow Libertarians last year by supporting the expansion of Medicaid even as the national party doubled-down on opposing the Affordable Care Act.

Craig said he'll emphasize his "great resume" and his business background to overcome those hurdles. And asked why he's getting in the race now, more than three years before the contest, he answered simply:

"Because Libertarians always wait to the last minute."

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.