GA-12: John Barrow Vulnerable To Strong Primary Challenge In 2012

Tuesday, Democrats in Georgia's 12th congressional district re-nominated U.S. Representative John Barrow for a fourth term in the House of Representatives.  However, the story coming out of the July 20th primary is not Barrow's victory but the fact that his primary opponent nearly doubled her vote total from two years ago.

Despite raising only $43,709, former state Senator Regina Thomas garnered 42% of the vote according to unofficial returns [SOURCE: Georgia Election Results; July 20, 2010].  Compare that to her performance in 2008, when Thomas received a paltry 23% against Barrow, and one comes away with the picture that a well-funded primary opponent could possibly beat the three-term Savannah Democrat in two years [SOURCE:  Georgia Election Results; July 15, 2010].

Regina Thomas' 19-point jump from 2008 to 2010 can only be attributed to Democrats' disapproval of John Barrow's vote against the health care bill. 

Before Tuesday's primary, several local Democratic elected officials and Democratic Party activists expressed their dismay at Barrow's vote.  Some even vowed to recruit a strong primary challenger for Barrow in the future.

Democrat John Barrow will face the winner of the Republican primary run-off between Ray McKinney and Carl Smith.  CQ Politics rates the race as "likely Democratic".

Primary Election Day In Georgia: Here Are The Races To Watch

Today is primary election day in Georgia.

Democrats and Republicans have been casting ballots in their respective Party's primary since 7AM this morning.

Early voting concluded last week, and the Secretary of State says that an estimated 100,000 Georgians cast ballots in advance of today's primary [Associated Press (2010-7-16).  Cobb, Fulton lead state in early voting totalsWTVM-TV(Columbus, GA).  Retrieved on 2010-7-20.].

Election officials expect a low voter turnout, with some expecting participation not to exceed 35 percent.

The polls close this evening at 7PM, and here are some of the races that folks will be watching:

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GA-12: Barrow Finding Fundraising Difficult Among House Colleagues

Over the past few weeks, a narrative has emerged in Georgia's 12th congressional district.

From the state AFL-CIO endorsing three-term Democrat John Barrow (despite his vote against the union-backed health care bill, and him being one of two Georgia Democrats not to co-sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act of 2009) over the objections of local labor leaders to the edict from Georgia state Democratic Party chair Jane Kidd that local Party leaders refrain from criticizing Barrow or resign, the narrative appears to be that the establishment is propping up the Savannah Democrat with little reason to do so.

Now comes word that Congressman Barrow is finding fewer friends among his Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill.

Far fewer of Barrow's colleagues in the House have contributed to the Georgia Democrat's reelection campaign this cycle than they did in previous years. Barrow attracted widespread criticism from the left after voting no on the final health reform bill earlier this year. That vote has been a focal point of his primary challenger's campaign.

Only five lawmakers [...] have given money from their personal campaign funds to Barrow in the 2010 cycle.

Five other elected Dems gave money to Barrow through their leadership political action committees . . .

That is in stark contrast to Barrow’s support at this time in the 2006 and 2008 cycles. In 2006, 53 Democratic lawmakers had contributed to his war chest. In 2008, the figure was 22.

Hooper, Molly K & Stiffman, Eden (2010-6-13). Dems not showing Barrow the money after his vote on healthcare. The Hill. Retrieved on 2010-6-14.

Don't let the news fool you though. 

Barrow is awash in campaign cash from the health care industry.  Research by Open shows that the health sector gave over $160,000 to Barrow this election cycle. 

So maybe the Congressman from the 12th district of Georgia can afford to dismiss his waning support from members of the House Democratic Caucus.  After all, he has establishment support and more than $800,000 in the bank.  What does Barrow have to be afraid of?

Still, one can't help but wonder if this steady drip. . .drip. . .drip of not-so-good news for John Barrow means that his days in Congress are numbered.

GA-12: State Democratic Party Chair Says Stop Criticizing John Barrow Or Resign

We now have a narrative in Georgia's 12th congressional district. 

Congressman John Barrow, who voted against the President's health care bill earlier this year, is facing off against former state Sen. Regina Thomas in the July 20th Democratic primary.  The grassroots activists are furious at Barrow for his vote, but the establishment is doing all it can to prop up the three-term Congressman.

Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that state Democratic Party chairman Jane Kidd delivered an ultimatum to the county Democratic committee chairs in the district of Congressman John Barrow:

Stop publicly criticizing Barrow and his vote against the Obama-backed health care bill or resign your post in the Democratic Party.

The chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party is telling local party heads to silence their criticism of U.S. Rep. John Barrow, a Savannah Democrat facing opposition in next month's primary election.

The Associated Press obtained a letter Democratic chair Jane Kidd sent to county chairmen in Barrow's southern Georgia district. Kidd's letter says party officials need to resign if they continue to criticize Barrow publicly.

Bynum, Russ (2010-6-8). APNewsBreak: Dem chair scolds Barrow's critics. Washington Examiner. Retrieved on 2010-6-9.

Montgomery County Democratic Party chairman John Brewer was the first county Democratic head to yank his support from Barrow over the health care vote.  Several Democratic state legislators in the 12th district who backed Barrow in the past or remained on the sidelines have now switched to Regina Thomas.  The local labor unions appear to be against Congressman Barrow as well.

Yet. the big boys (and girls) in the establishment seem to be ignoring the folks on the ground despite their promises to listen to the grassroots.

Behold the power of incumbency in Georgia.

GA-12: Barrow Wins AFL-CIO Backing Despite Opposition From Local Labor Leaders

During the latter part of May, the Georgia AFL-CIO announced its candidate endorsements for the 2010 election season. Among the hopefuls backed by the state labor federation are U.S. Senate candidate Michael Thurmond, gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes and Secretary of State candidate Gail Buckner. However, the state AFL-CIO's endorsement of John Barrow has some local labor leaders shocked and disappointed at the move.

In a memo published on the blog "Down With Tyranny," Communications Workers of America Metro Atlanta Retired Members' Council President James Starr wrote that Georgia AFL-CIO President Richard Ray pushed through an endorsement of Congressman Barrow despite the Savannah Democrat not being supported by a single member of the Savannah Regional Central Labor Council.

"I was shocked and extremely disappointed that Richard Ray who chaired the meeting actually entered the debate and actively opposed us while he controlled the gavel," the Starr memo reads. "Allowing so much bad information to be published which we were not permitted to refute. Such as Tasso Knight saying since Obama Healthcare was adopted he received a letter from ATT telling him about his premiums would have to go up. Another speaker bringing up the ATT charge back."

"We were not allowed to refute this misleading garbage. After the fact, Richard did apologize and say he was wrong for speaking. That is like a person picking up a gun intentionally pointing it at another person pulling the trigger and say I apologize I was wrong."

The memo goes on to assert the following:

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