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« Strategy Memo: Shake It | Blog Home Page | Dems Trail Chambliss »

Barrow Hit From The Left

Georgia Rep. John Barrow faces a dilemma many Democrats in moderate districts often confront: a primary challenge from the left. Barrow's voting record places him in the middle of the House. Likewise, his district, which was redrawn in 2005, has been decided by less than 9,000 votes combined in the last two presidential elections.

In his bid for a third term, Barrow is facing State Senator Regina Thomas in the July 15 primary. In a Tuesday night debate, Thomas called herself the "true Democrat" and attacked Barrow for votes he cast on issues such as the Iraq war, tax cuts and most recently, the updating of FISA. "The incumbent has always voted with Bush and the Republicans, and look at where we are," Thomas said, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Thomas hit Barrow on another issue incumbents on both sides of the aisle will face in primaries and general elections this year: gas prices. "This gas crisis did not just come about," Thomas said. "Being in Congress for four years and still talking about what you're going do, it should have already been done."

When Barrow first ran for the seat in 2004, the district included his hometown of Athens, located about 70 miles east of Atlanta. That year Barrow was one of only two challengers in the country to knock off a Republican incumbent. Then in 2005, redistricting moved Athens into the Tenth District, a heavily Republican area of the state that Republican Charlie Norwood had represented since 1994. Most of Barrow's district remained in the Twelfth, however, so Barrow made the strategic decision to move to Savannah and run for re-election in his district in 2006. That year he came closer to losing re-election than any other Democrat in the country, winning by less than 900 votes in his second consecutive defeat of Max Burns.

With both candidates hailing from the same city, the primary won't turn into a geographical divide as previous contests have (such as the 2007 special election in Georgia's Tenth District). However, Thomas has represented Savannah, the largest city in the district, in the state Senate since 2000, while Barrow is still in just his second term in Congress. Whoever wins the primary will likely receive a boost from the Democrat at the top of the ticket: Barack Obama. The Twelfth is a moderate district where 45% of the population is black.

--Kyle Trygstad