COLUMBIA — South Carolina Rep. Gresham Barrett said Tuesday he's running for governor.

The Republican told The Associated Press that he plans to launch his bid today with a mass e-mail that will link to a short Internet video. He becomes the first well-heeled candidate to announce a run for the GOP's 2010 nomination.

"Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we're going to send out an e-mail to our supporters announcing my intentions," Barrett said by phone from Washington.

"I'm going to work my fingers off: working, getting to know people in South Carolina, sharing my vision, seeing people," Barrett said of a race that will hinge on him building a statewide profile and running what promises to be a record-setting primary for money in tough times.

"When I enter this race tomorrow — tonight — I'm going to be the underdog again and I think what's going to show off is hard work," Barrett said.

Barrett, 48, wants to replace Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who can't run for a third term because of term limits.

The next governor, Barrett said, needs to emphasize economic development, spur energy production and revamp education.

"Number One is economic development. We need to make sure that our economy in South Carolina is second to none," said Barrett, who has served in the U.S. House since 2002 after three state House terms.

The economy has been a lingering issue for South Carolina, which has the nation's third-highest unemployment rate, at 8.8 percent in December. The downturn also is a problem for political campaigns.

Barrett already has substantial cash on hand . His most recent federal campaign finance report shows he has $725,000, and he expects to use most of that money for his gubernatorial campaign.

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster also are considering running for the Republican nomination.

McMaster's re-election account has $778,426 on hand, according to his most recent state filing, after raising $110,750 in the fourth quarter of 2008. Bauer's account had $435,757 after raising $160,978. Their accounts can be converted to gubernatorial bids.

The recession and tough fundraising atmosphere "means that you've got to get serious about it and work, work, work," Barrett said.

Barrett, a Westminster resident who used to manage his family's furniture store in that Oconee County town, has been a proponent of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas as a way for the U.S. to become energy independent.

The former Army artillery captain in November won his fourth term in the House by defeating Democratic challenger Jane Ballard Dyer, a political newcomer and former Air Force pilot.

He serves on the Committee on Financial Services, the House Committee on International Relations and the House Ethics Committee.

His 3rd Congressional District runs along the Savannah River in the northwest corner of the state.

Barrett joins Furman University political science professor Brent Nelsen in formally announcing a bid for the nomination.

Nelsen last week announced his plan to run. Nelsen's initial campaign finance report shows $5,912 on hand.

Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden announced plans for a gubernatorial bid last month. Sheheen formed an exploratory committee, making him the first Democrat in the race.

Barrett last year ranked ninth on The Hill's "50 Most Beautiful People of Capitol Hill for 2008" list.

The rankings called Barrett "the sentimental quarterback" and noted his penchant for starched shirts and his office's seersucker Wednesdays.

He was the only legislator making the top 10.