There is something about U. S. Rep. John Barrow that drives normally even-tempered politicians into a frenzy.
Ever since he upset Republican incumbent Max Burns in 2004 for the 12th District seat, the state’s GOP establishment has made it a priority to drive Barrow out of Congress.
They are still trying.
In 2005, after taking control of the General Assembly, Republicans redrew the 12th District boundary lines to remove Clarke County, where Barrow was raised and served for 14 years on the county commission.
Barrow moved to Savannah and in 2006 he defeated Burns again.
Barrow trounced GOP opponents in 2008 and 2010, so the Republican-controlled Legislature went after him again. The 2011 redistricting removed Democratic precincts of Chatham County and added much of Republican Columbia County, leaving Barrow in a GOP-leaning district.
Barrow moved again, to Augusta this time, and prepared for another run.
State Rep. Lee Anderson was the Republican opponent and several Washington-based PACs spent large sums of money to run attack ads against Barrow, described as one of the top 10 targets in this election cycle.
Barrow kept emphasizing that he’s an independent-minded Democrat who’s not going to vote with the president when he thinks the president is wrong (he voted against the final passage of Obamacare in 2010).
That point evidently hit home with the district’s voters. In a race that most political observers thought would be close, Barrow defeated Anderson by more than 19,000 votes.
“It’s because I have a brand that is substantially different from the two warring tribes up here in Washington,” Barrow said when asked to analyze the reason for his win.
“They’re all partisan as can be and can’t talk with folks on the other side of the aisle in any meaningful way,” Barrow said. “It was obvious my opponent was one of those who wanted to be in the crowd of those wanting to shout at each other.”
Barrow is one of the few Blue Dog Democrats remaining in Congress, but he clings to the quaint belief that his moderate approach is the best one for such a politically polarized era.
“There’s a lot of middle ground in this country,” he insisted in an interview. “That’s where the vast majority of people are, but it’s where very few elected officials are. People are looking for a moderate, centrist alternative and they can’t get one through the primary system that dominates politics.”
Barrow is not a very popular figure in politics. Republicans despise him and will try to figure out another way to go after him in 2014. Democrats aren’t fond of him either because he’s not a guaranteed vote.
He has proved, however, that you can still win an election by appealing to that independent spirit that a lot of voters still have.
(Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at www.gareport.com.)