"Now a lot of people say I'm crazy. A lot of people said I was crazy to run for state schools superintendent too," Barge said during an event formally kicking off his campaign for the seat. "But I have a passion not only for education but for this state."
Barge was born and raised in Cobb County, graduated from Campbell High School in 1984, and attended Berry College in Rome on academic and journalism scholarships where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1988. Barge has earned three advanced degrees, a master's degree and a specialist's degree from the University of West Georgia and his doctorate degree in educational leadership from the University of Georgia.
In his 20-year education career, Barge served as a high school English teacher, middle school Spanish teacher, assistant principal and principal. He also served as the State Director of Career, Technical and Agriculture Education for the Georgia Department of Education.
Barge was recognized as a Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) teacher in 1996, Georgia's Assistant Principal of the Year in 2001, and he received the Berry College Alumni Association's Distinguished Achievement Award in 2005.
For Barge, his central campaign message is "Georgia deserves better" and he hopes to attract educators with a message of increased funding for public education. While short on specifics, he said he plans to accomplish this by reducing the size of state government and not raising taxes. He criticized Deal for failing to fund education appropriately, saying it's embarrassing that two-thirds of Georgia public schools are in session less than the state minimum of 180 days and that it makes it difficult to attract businesses to the state.
"We must make education a priority. We must invest in education," Barge said. "People will say it is still the largest piece of our budget, and that is true. But education must be perceived as an investment and not a line item in a budget."
The governor’s race will likely be heated since the working relationship between Barge and Deal has been chilly since Barge announced his opposition to last year's state charter schools amendment. Barge has said he supports charter schools but felt the amendment was unnecessary. He said he made a promise to Deal at the time that he would not publicly oppose the amendment, which left him unable to explain his position.
In addition to Barge, Dalton Mayor David Pennington has announced he would seek the Republican nomination. Over the weekend, former state Sen. Connie Stokes said she plans to run for governor in the Democratic primary.
Calls to Barge were not returned at press time. See The Daily Tribune News for more on the longtime Floyd County resident and his connections to Bartow County as he begins his campaign for governor.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.