Barbour 2007 touts 'great leap forward'

Gov. Haley Barbour is touring Mississippi on Monday and Tuesday to announce that he's running for re-election.

"I really do believe that Mississippi is at the verge of a great leap forward, and with the right kind of leadership we can take advantage of that and give our children and grandchildren opportunities that my generation never dreamed of," Barbour said Monday at Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg.

Barbour said under his administration the state has recovered from the largest budget deficit in history.  He's also focused on ending lawsuit abuse and creating more jobs. Katrina recovery is another one of the governor's top priorities.

"And there's so much left to be done because of Katrina," he said, "and I don't think you should quit in the middle of the job. I think I'm gonna be on hurricane duty for a while."

Barbour says if reelected he would like to propose large tax cuts within the next two years. That's if the state maintains a stable budget in the post-Katrina market.

"but I'm not gonna do it now because it's irresponsible to be cutting taxes or monkeying around with your tax system when you don't really know where you are when you have this much uncertainty."

So far Barbour is unopposed in the Republican primary.  Three Democrats, none widely known, have filed qualifying papers.  The deadline to do so is March 1.

Barbour says his immediate concern is governing the state, not campaining.

"And I expect to do that all the way through summer and we'll look back at politics when the fall comes," he said.

Party primaries are August 7, followed by the general election November 6.

The Republican incumbent has been saying since last year that he plans to seek a second term in 2007. He launched his campaign Web site last week and has been airing television ads for several days.

Barbour's schedule includes appearances on Monday in Hattiesburg, Gulfport, Jackson and Greenville and on Tuesday in Olive Branch, Tupelo, Columbus, Meridian and his hometown of Yazoo City.

He filed a campaign finance report last month showing he raised $3.7 million in 2006 and still has $3.5 million cash on hand.

Barbour, 59, said in December that he's prepared to spend up to $13 million for the campaign. He said that was roughly what he and the Republican Party, combined, spent in defeating Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2003.

Barbour was chairman of the Republican National Committee in the mid-1990s. So far, he is unopposed in this year's Republican primary.

Three Democrats have filed qualifying papers: former state Sen. Bill Renick of Ashland, former state Rep. Elmer "Louis" Fondren of Gautier and William Bond Compton Jr. of Lauderdale County. None of them filed campaign finance reports last month. Only candidates who raised money in 2006 were required to file.