Barrow Keeps Georgia 12

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

As Georgia’s Republicans continue to grasp the national election results, there remains a clear disparity.  It appears that Republicans will now have a supermajority in the State Senate.  At this time they are one Republican short in the State House.  Republicans held on to both statewide Public Service Commissioner seats convincingly, retaining all statewide elected offices in the GOP’s control.

Yet down in Georgia’s 12th Congressional district, Congressman John Barrow is smiling.  He will return to Washington from his Augusta home, just like he has before from his Savannah home and his Athens home.  The Republicans keep moving his district, and John Barrow keeps going to Congress – This time, by a very convincing margin.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  When Congressional maps were redrawn, there were two distinct priorities.  The 9th District was to again be anchored by Hall County and was to be decisively Republican.  Congressman-elect Doug Collins, not coincidentally from Hall County, will be sworn in this January.

The other priority was to turn Georgia’s 12th district to a Republican district.  Democrats in Chatham County were charitably given to Georgia’s first district held (and successfully defended) by Jack Kingston.  Republicans from the 8th District, which recently flipped from Democrat Jim Marshall to Republican Austin Scott, were added to Georgia 12 to ensure a Republican would be elected.  The result was a district that voted 60% for George Bush in 2004 and 56% for John McCain in 2008.

On paper, there was no way Republicans could lose this seat.  Elections, however, are not executed on paper.  When it was over, Barrow returns to D.C. with 54% of the vote in a district that he was sure to lose.

Republicans had a bitter primary among 4 candidates that were largely unknown to the district.  The only one with prior elected experience, Rep Lee Anderson from Columbia County, ultimately won the primary runoff by a margin that needed to be recounted to stand.

A decision was made to keep the candidate insulated, with no public debates of Barrow.  Further, the frequent press releases used to message on behalf of Anderson most often quoted a campaign spokesperson rather than the candidate himself.  Many of the district’s Republicans remained unsold on Anderson after the primary, and were put off by the “prevent defense” type of a campaign where the challenger ran as if he were the incumbent.

12th District Republicans have vowed to begin immediately recruiting a higher profile candidate for the 2014 Congressional race.  Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams’ name is floated most often.  He is stepping down as President Pro Tem for the 2013-2014 session of the General Assembly and has remained somewhat coy as to his future plans beyond that.  He will likely receive a number of calls from local GOP members inquiring if his desire to work in DC has changed.

Those same folks may want to consider making a call to one other person as well.  That person is John Barrow.

Barrow is clearly liked within the district, though a 2014 matchup with him as a Democrat will likely be more challenging.  A better Republican candidate in a non-Presidential election would likely make this district much more competitive.  Yet 54-46 is not an easy margin for the GOP to flip.

Barrow also has support among other elected officials within the district, many of whom now wear the Republican label but once shared Barrow’s current party.  Privately, they have made it clear they would welcome him if he were to make the inquiry.

There was a time in Georgia when GOP recruitment was almost exclusively on popular conservative or centrist Democrats.  It remains to be seen if the emergence of the TEA Party has closed that door.  Dems will likely point to the fate of Doug McKillip and Rick Crawford as those who weren’t accepted by Republicans after announcing a switch.

If done at this time, however, Barrow’s switch would look a lot more like that of one other former Georgia Congressman – the one who now resides in the Georgia governor’s mansion.  Nathan Deal ran in 1994 against Newt Gingrich’s Contract for America.  It was Gingrich who gave deal the proper cover to become an accepted member of the Republican club afterward.

Republicans clearly need to recruit the right candidate if they are to take hold of Georgia 12.  The question appears to be open as if they would want to try to recruit the current Democratic Incumbent.


  1. cheapseats says:

    Shortly after the reapportionment, I ran into Barrow and he seemed to be resigned to losing his seat. He almost as much as said something like “I think they finally got me this time.” – not really his exact words, I’m sure but sorta like that.

    When his opponent was finally revealed, I think that was when he realized that he still had a shot. Anderson was never a credible opponent. I don’t think anybody could see him as a member of Congress.

    Barrow won’t switch. He may continue to vote with Republicans a good portion of the time but he ain’t switching parties. It would shame his family name.

  2. Barrow is a Democrat who votes like a Republican. A staffer told me Barrow took lots of heat for voting No on ACA, with calls for him to leave the party. I was also told that his family’s long history in the party prevents him from switching.

    He won’t switch, and as long as he can get re-elected voting like he does, and hold onto his committee assignments, why should he switch?

    Now I am in Broun’s district, which will be another Circle of Hell to experience.

  3. The 12th District Republican Party of Georgia has no interest in asking John Barrow to join the Republican Party or considering a request from Rep. Barrow to join the Republican Party. The 12th District GOP has principles that Rep. Barrow has not reflected in either his actions or his votes, including his votes for Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House. He needs to remain with the Democratic Party, as their platform reflects his past votes and his personal beliefs.

  4. Max Power says:

    The very fact that political parties draw maps so that influence elections is a travesty. Redistricting should be about the will of the people not the will of the party in charge. We and every other state needs to adopt a non-partisan redistricting plan.

  5. KD_fiscal conservative says:

    While Lee was clearly a weak candidate, its still hard to tell if any Repub. could have beaten Barrow. He only needed to get ~6% of Romney voters to vote for him. In S. Ga(which makes up ~50% of the district) voters aren’t really hardcore partisan Repubs.,then there the voters that would appreciate Barrow “bringing to pork home”, and finally, some people just like moderates. Barrow knows how to play the game of politics and had a huge amount of money to work with, I think could have built a coalition large enough of those type of voters against most repub. opponents.

    • tdk790 says:

      Lee Anderson won 10 of 19 counties. Mitt Romney won 17 of 19 counties.
      John Barrow won 9 of 19 counties. Barack Obama won 2 of 19 counties.

      Lee Anderson was more than a weak candidate, he was an absolute failure. While Barrow brought his own strengths, don’t discredit Anderson’s superb flop.

  6. ricstewart says:

    Here in Bulloch County, every Republican on the ballot easily won, except Lee Anderson.
    Mitt Romney – 59%
    Chuck Eaton – 59%
    Stan Wise – 73%
    Jan Tankersley (state rep) – 66%
    Teresa Tucker (clerk of court) – 62%

    But in the congressional race, Barrow beat Anderson 52.32% to 47.68%. When Anderson can’t win a solidly Republican county like Bulloch, what does that say? Make of it what you will.

  7. ricstewart says:

    Barrow could never pull off a successful party switch. Other Democrats-turned-Republicans in recent memory have been able to do it because they were already social conservatives and fiscal moderates. John Barrow is neither, in my opinion.

    In reference to potential candidates, I’ve mentioned this in another recent post… I’m sure they’re already looking at Jesse Stone. What about Ashley Wright, Helen Blocker-Adams, or Deke Copenhaver (he’s independent, but does anyone know which party he leans toward?)?

  8. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    John Barrow almost literally really is THE LAST DEMOCRAT IN GEORGIA!

    Kudos to Congressman Barrow for continously hanging in there, sticking with his flailing party and remaining a Democrat in the face of almost certain extinction.

    Other remaining Georgia Democrats could most certainly learn a thing or two from Barrow’s perseverance.

  9. IndyInjun says:

    Lawton, as much as I like you, you have sadly welded yourself to the now-clearly-dead GOP establishment. Save yourself.

    Barrow is at least as Conservative as Isakson and the man has stellar constituent service.

    I was proud to have been a Republican for Barrow.

    There seem to have been more than a few of us, as Barrow carried 9 out of 19 counties. Lee even lost 3 precincts in Grovetown and one in Harlem.

  10. Trey A. says:

    The national media made a big deal out of Barrow being the “last white Democratic Congressman from the deep south” and if you Google the term, you’ll see the Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times and Yahoo! painting his re-election with similar headlines.

    I seriously doubt Barrow switches parties. He means too much to the Dems.

    This story from last week is some of the best reporting I’ve seen on the race.

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