YAZOO CITY, Miss. – Republican Haley Barbour said Monday he was entering the governor's race to get Mississippi's economy back on track and restore fiscal stability in state government.
Barbour, 55, began his gubernatorial campaign from his hometown of Yazoo City, located on the southern tip of the Mississippi Delta.
The former Republican National Committee chairman and an aide to President Reagan said he is running for governor "because I know we can do better."
Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is expected to seek re-election. The state's party primaries are Aug. 5 and the general election is Nov. 4.
Barbour, a lawyer and lobbyist, traveled the state for several months last year to gauge public reaction to a possible gubernatorial bid. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in Mississippi in 1982.
"A strong leader will first tell the public the truth about our problems. A strong leader will set priorities and stick to them. A strong leader will fight for what's right whether it's politically popular or not," Barbour said, reading from prepared remarks.
About 200-300 people arrived early for the announcement at a civic center. A handful braved temperatures in the 30s to wave "Barbour for Governor" signs outside the building.
Yazoo City Mayor Wardell Leach, a Democrat, introduced Barbour to the crowd and reminded them that although Barbour had spent most of his time in Washington, Barbour maintained a home in the Yazoo City area.
Leach, who said he had no particular gripe against Musgrove, said Barbour could do more for the Yazoo City area.
"Haley Barbour has never forgotten his roots," Leach said.
Leach said Barbour helped bring a federal prison to Yazoo County, which now employs about 300 people.
Barbour, sticking closely to his prepared remarks, said state government had fallen "from its strongest fiscal condition ever to the worst financial crisis in our state's history."
He said Mississippi has lost many manufacturing jobs to a number of factors, including "lawsuit abuse (that) is driving the cost of doing business in our state to intolerably high levels."
"We don't have this financial crisis in Mississippi because we tax too little, it's because we spend too much," he said.
Barbour said he plans a campaign that will take him all over the state and will appeal to a broad spectrum of voters.
Barbour was a top political adviser in the Reagan White House and was RNC chairman from 1993 to 1996. He came under fire after helping to arrange a $2.1 million loan guarantee from a Hong Kong businessman to help the GOP's 1994 election efforts. Barbour has said he didn't know the businessman used foreign funds.