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Former Gov. Roy Barnes successfully completed the first step of his political redemption tour Tuesday, handily winning the Democratic nomination for his old job.

Almost eight years after being ousted by Sonny Perdue and becoming the first Democrat to lose a governor’s race to a Republican in modern Georgia history, Barnes overwhelmed a field of six other Democrats Tuesday.

Now Barnes can raise money and bide his time, waiting for Republican voters to decide in the Aug. 10 runoff whom he will face in November.

“Tonight is the beginning to take our state back from the lobbyists and the special interests,” Barnes told a crowd of about 300 cheering supporters in Atlanta. “This is the end of building fish ponds and not paying teachers. This is the end of passing legislation that makes us the laughingstock of the nation.

“It’s time, my friends, to make Georgia work again.”

Barnes weathered a tough primary fight from Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a veteran campaigner who has been running and winning races for more than two decades.

In a short concession speech Tuesday night, Baker said, “We came up a little short but we gave it our all, and that’s all you could ever ask.” He pledged to support Barnes in the general election and “do all I can to make sure he becomes the next governor of our state.”

Dennis Pius, 63, a home inspector from Marietta, said he voted Tuesday for Barnes because “he’s got more experience” than the other candidates, having served as governor.

Barnes’ upset defeat in 2002 at the hands of Perdue signaled the collapse of Democratic Party control of state politics. Within two years, both chambers of the General Assembly were solidly in Republican hands.

Barnes lost in part because his push for school reforms left many of Georgia’s more than 100,000 teachers feeling that he blamed them for poor test scores, high dropout rates and other problems. He’s spent much of the past year apologizing to teachers. And he’s raised more money than any of the other candidates.

Read the full story here.