John Barrow (U.S. politician)

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This article is about the U.S. politician John Barrow. For other uses see John Barrow.
John Barrow
John Barrow Official Headshot.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 12th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2005
Preceded by Max Burns
Personal details
Born (1955-10-31) October 31, 1955 (age 58)
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Residence Athens, Georgia (1955-2006)
Savannah, Georgia (2006-2012)
Augusta, Georgia (2012-present)
Alma mater University of Georgia
Harvard Law School
Religion Baptist[citation needed]

John Jenkins Barrow (born October 31, 1955) is the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 12th congressional district, serving since 2005. The district includes much of the Georgia side of the CSRA and includes counties as south as Coffee County and as west as Laurens County. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Education, early career, and family[edit]

Barrow was born in Athens, Georgia to Phyllis Jenkins and Judge James Barrow, who both served as officers during World War II.[1] 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. He 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 in that capacity until his election to public office. Barrow divorced his wife Victoria in 2005. He has two children.

Athens-Clarke County politics[edit]

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, turning away a spirited challenge from young newcomer Michael Le Houllier.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Committee assignments[edit]



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 ambitious, 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.[2] Barrow won the Democratic nomination with 76% of the vote over Thomas with 24% of the vote, 96% of the precincts reporting.[3] He easily defeated his Republican challenger, former congressional aide John Stone, with 66% percent of the vote.[4]

Support for Obama[edit]

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." The 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.[5]


Barrow won re-election defeating Republican nominee Ray McKinney 57%-43%.[6]

Augusta Chronicle editorial[edit]

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.” [5]


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. The new district leaned Republican on paper; 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.[7] However, in the general election, Barrow managed to defeat Republican State Representative Lee Anderson 54%-46%, even as Mitt Romney easily carried the district. According to an editorial in the Augusta Chronicle, this was mainly because Anderson was almost invisible during the campaign; notably, he never debated Barrow.[8]

Political views[edit]

Barrow is a Blue Dog Democrat[9] as well as a member of the New Democrat Coalition.[10] Based on Barrow's bill sponsorship, the GovTrack website has classified him as a centrist Democrat.[11] Since the defeat of fellow Georgia Democrat Jim Marshall in 2010, he has been the only white Democratic congressman from the Deep South.[12]

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.[13]

Health care[edit]

In November 2009, Barrow was one of 39 Democrats to vote against the Affordable Health Care for America Act.[14] 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.[15] In January 2011, Barrow voted against repealing the law.[16]

Gay rights[edit]

Barrow opposes same-sex marriage and in 2011 voted to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.[17] In 2004, Barrow's primary opponent Karla Drenner accused Barrow of flip-flopping on the issue.[18] Barrow countered that while he supported an amendment banning same-sex marriage, he wasn't certain one was necessary.


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,[19] 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 life of the mother.[20]

Stimulus spending[edit]

Barrow voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.[21] 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.[22]

Intellectual property[edit]

In 2011, Rep. Barrow became a co-sponsor of Bill H.R.3261 otherwise known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.[23]


  1. ^ 1. John Barrow RootsWeb
  2. ^ Wilson, Reid (July 15, 2008). "Georgia On Voters' Minds". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  3. ^ "2008 Georgia primary election results". WTOC. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  4. ^ Georgia: Election Results 2008 The New York Times, December 9, 2008
  5. ^ a b Editorial Staff (1 November 2010). "The two faces of John Barrow: Congressman peddling different messages to unsuspecting voters". August Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia). 
  6. ^ "GA - District 12 Race - Nov 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  7. ^ Wasserman, David. "Top 10 Most Endangered Democrats". National Journal. Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  8. ^ Bottom Line: Lee Anderson's campaign (Editorial) Augusta Chronicle, November 8, 2012
  9. ^ "Blue Dog Membership". Blue Dog Coalition. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  10. ^ "The NewDemPAC". New Democrat Coalition. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Rep. John Barrow". Civic Impulse. Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Hirschhorn, Dan. "Georgia redistricting plan imperils John Barrow". Politico. Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "Georgia House John Barrow". On the Issues. Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "HR 3962: Affordable Health Care for America Act". November 7, 2009. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ "Repeal health-care overhaul". The Washington Post. January 19, 2011. 
  17. ^ Joseph, Cameron (31 March 2013). "Bucking the trend: The House Democrats who oppose gay marriage Read more: Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook". The Hill. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  18. ^ Peterson, Larry (16 September 2004). "Gay rights activists angered by Barrow". Online Athens. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Representative John Barrow - Interest Group Ratings". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  20. ^ Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives (2009-11-07). "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 884, Stupak of Michigan Amendment". 
  21. ^ "Voting Record". The Political Guide. Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  22. ^ Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives (2009-06-26). "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 477, American Clean Energy and Security Act". 
  23. ^ Bill H.R.3261;;

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Max Burns
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 12th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
G. K. Butterfield
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Charles Boustany