|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Georgia's 12th district
January 3, 2005 - January 3, 2015
|Rick W. Allen|
John Jenkins Barrow
October 31, 1955
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
|Education||University of Georgia (BA)|
Harvard University (JD)
John Jenkins Barrow (born October 31, 1955) is an American politician who was the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 12th congressional district from 2005 to 2015. The district includes much of the Georgia side of the Central Savannah River Area and includes counties as far south as Coffee County and as far west as Laurens County. He is a member of the Democratic Party.
As a Democratic congressman in an increasingly Republican district, Barrow was targeted for defeat by Republican strategists from the time he was first elected. Twice the GOP-controlled Georgia General Assembly redrew his district, forcing him to move first from Athens to Savannah and then from Savannah to Augusta to remain a resident of his district. He was ultimately defeated in his 2014 bid for re-election.
Barrow was born in Athens, Georgia, to Judge James Barrow and his wife, Phyllis (Jenkins) Barrow, who both had served as military officers during World War II. His family has deep roots in the Athens area, and according to his staff he is a great-great-nephew of David Crenshaw Barrow Jr., for whom nearby Barrow County was named. Through his Barrow ancestors he is related to 19th-century Georgia Gov. Wilson Lumpkin.
Barrow graduated from the University of Georgia with a political science degree in 1976. While a student, he was a member of the university's Demosthenian Literary Society. In 1979, he earned a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. After graduation, he entered private practice as a lawyer, working until his election to public office. Barrow is married to the former Angèle Hawkins of Atlanta. Together they have 5 children: Charlie, Manette, Alex, James, and Ruth.
In 1990, voters from the City of Athens and Clarke County voted to consolidate the two governing bodies. Barrow was elected to the newly created Athens-Clarke County Commission, representing the county's fourth district. He won re-election in 1992, 1996, and in 2000.
Barrow sponsored 59 bills of his own, including:
In 2004, Barrow entered the Democratic primary for Georgia's 12th District. The 12th had been one of the districts Georgia gained as a result of the 2000 United States Census, and stretched from Athens to Augusta. The district, with its 40% African-American population, had supposedly been drawn for a Democrat. However, Republican college professor Max Burns had won the seat in 2002 because of ethical questions surrounding the Democratic nominee, Charles "Champ" Walker, Jr. Barrow won a four-way primary and went on to defeat Burns by 52% to 48%.
At the same time Barrow was elected, the Republicans won control of both houses of the Georgia state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. One of their first acts was a rare mid-decade redistricting that targeted Barrow and the other white Democrat in the Georgia delegation, Jim Marshall. One proposed map, seriously considered, would have drawn his home in Athens into the heavily Republican 9th District of seven-term incumbent Nathan Deal, while throwing the other half of Athens into the equally Republican 10th District of six-term incumbent Charlie Norwood.
The final plan was somewhat less draconian, but shifted all of Athens to the 10th District. Rather than face certain defeat, Barrow moved from his ancestral home of Athens to Savannah in the newly redrawn 12th. The new 12th was slightly less Democratic than its predecessor. It now included several Republican-leaning Savannah suburbs that had previously been in the heavily Republican 1st District. Barrow faced Burns in the general election and won by only 864 votes -- the narrowest margin of any Democratic incumbent nationwide. However, he trounced Burns in Chatham and Richmond counties -- home to Democratic-leaning Savannah and Augusta, respectively (as well as more than half the district's population) -- by a total of over 17,000 votes.
Barrow's 2006 candidacy faced not only the mid-decade redistricting but also two visits by President George W. Bush to the district, campaigning by national figures on behalf of Burns (including RNC Chair Ken Mehlman and U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert) and popular Governor Sonny Perdue's reelection bid.
In the 2008 election, Barrow faced a primary challenge from State Senator Regina Thomas, who represents a majority-black district in Savannah. Barrow won the Democratic nomination with 76% of the vote over Thomas with 24% of the vote, 96% of the precincts reporting. He easily defeated his Republican challenger, former congressional aide John Stone, with 66% percent of the vote.
Barrow aligned himself closely with Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential primary. He endorsed Obama months before he won enough delegates to clinch the nomination. Obama reciprocated by recording a sixty-second radio advertisement for Barrow, who was in a contested primary. Obama said, "We're going to need John Barrow back in Congress to help change Washington and get our country back on track." It was the first time Obama got involved with a Georgia election. Barrow later touted his supported from Obama in a direct-mail piece that said he works "hand-in-hand" with Obama.
Barrow won re-election defeating Republican nominee Ray McKinney 57%-43%.
In a 2010 editorial, the Augusta Chronicle called John Barrow "perhaps the most shameless, duplicitous, self-serving politician of his era." The editorial was written after it was discovered that he sent two diametrically opposed mailers to voters in his district - one saying he works "hand in hand" with President Obama, and another saying he "stood up" to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In closing, the editorial stated: "That Mr. Barrow is two-faced has been revealed by his own hand. Why voters would reward that kind of disingenuous condescension is beyond us."
Following the 2010 census, the Republican-controlled state legislature significantly altered the 12th. It lost its share of Savannah, while gaining all of Augusta and most of its suburbs. However, a number of heavily Republican areas near Savannah remained in the 12th. On paper, the reconfigured 12th was strongly Republican; had it existed in 2008, John McCain would have carried it with 58 percent of the vote. By comparison, Barack Obama carried the old 12th with 54 percent of the vote. Since Barrow's home in Savannah was drawn into Jack Kingston's 1st district, he moved to Augusta in the reconfigured 12th and sought election there.
In April 2011, the National Journal named Barrow one of the ten most endangered Democrats. However, in the general election, Barrow managed to defeat Republican State Representative Lee Anderson 54%-46%. According to an editorial in the Augusta Chronicle, this was mainly because Anderson was almost invisible during the campaign; notably, he never debated Barrow.Mitt Romney won the district with 55 percent of the vote.
In the 2014 Democratic primaries, Barrow went unopposed. Republican Rick W. Allen defeated John Barrow in the November 2014 elections.
While considered to be a potential candidate for Governor of Georgia in the 2018 election, Barrow decided instead to pursue the office of Georgia Secretary of State. He announced his candidacy on September 24, 2017 and won the Democratic primary. Neither Barrow nor his Republican opponent, Brad Raffensperger, received 50% of the vote in the 2018 general election, so a run-off election was held. In that election, Barrow lost by approximately 57,000 votes.
Barrow is a Blue Dog Democrat as well as a member of the New Democrat Coalition. Based on Barrow's bill sponsorship, the GovTrack website has classified him as a centrist Democrat. Following the defeat of fellow Georgia Democrat Jim Marshall in 2010, he was the only white Democratic congressman from the Deep South.
Barrow got a 75% rating from the NAACP, which indicates a "mixed record" on civil rights; 83% from U.S. Border Control, indicating a "sealed-border stance"; 25% from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, indicating a "mixed record on church-state separation"; 0% from Citizens for Tax Justice, indicating opposition to progressive tax structure; 100% from the Campaign for America's Future, indicating support for energy independence; -10 from NORML, indicating a "hard-on-drugs" stance; 36% from the National Right to Life Committee, indicating a mixed record on abortion.
In November 2009, Barrow was one of 39 Democrats to vote against the Affordable Health Care for America Act. In March 2010, he was one of 34 to vote against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. The bill passed the House 219-212. In January 2011, Barrow voted against repealing the law.
Barrow voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," and he voted for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. He supported conferring marriage benefits to same sex couples by means of civil unions but was opposed to gay marriage. During his first campaign he was accused of flip-flopping on the issue of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same sex marriage, but he defended his position by explaining that the amendment he opposed would have prevented states from recognizing civil unions while the amendment he supported would have allowed states to recognize civil unions. He voted to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed states to recognize same-sex marriages but also allowed states to refuse to recognize same sex marriages granted under the laws of other states.
Barrow's voting record on abortion is mixed. In 2007, Barrow received a 100% approval rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-choice group, and also received a 0% approval rating from the National Right to Life Committee, a pro-Life organization. However, in 2006, he received only a 35% approval rating from NARAL, and in November 2009, he voted to amend the health care reform bill to prohibit private health insurance companies from offering insurance plans covering abortion to subsidized citizens except in the case of rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother.
Barrow voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He was one of 44 Democrats in the House to vote against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the cap and trade bill.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 12th congressional district
Rick W. Allen
|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Policy
Served alongside: Heath Shuler (Administration), Mike Ross (Communications)
| Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Administration
Served alongside: Kurt Schrader (Communications), Jim Cooper (Policy)