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Bob Barr’s political comeback falls short in Georgia

Barr, a former GOP congressman and 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate, loses U.S. House runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

georgia mugMARIETTA, Georgia (CFP) — Bob Barr, a former GOP congressman who bolted the party to seek the Libertarian presidential nomination in 2008, has fallen short in his bid to return to Congress as a Republican.

barr lgBarr, 65, lost the GOP runoff for Georgia’s open 11th District U.S. House seat to former State Senator Barry Loudermilk, who took 69 percent of the vote to 31 percent for Barr. Loudermilk had led in the first round of balloting on May 20.

Loudermilk’s win means he will be headed to Congress because no Democrat filed to run in the 11th District, a heavily Republican enclave in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs.

Barr, a former federal prosecutor, was first elected to Congress in the Republican wave of 1994. But he was defeated in a primary in 2002 after the Democratic-controlled Georgia legislature dismembered his district, forcing him to run against another Republican incumbent, former U.S. Rep. John Linder.

By 2006, Barr had left the GOP for the Libertarian Party and was its presidential nominee in 2008. He won just 0.4 percent of the national vote.

There is precedent for Barr’s attempt at a Republican comeback. Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul returned to Congress as a Republican in 1996 after running as the Libertarian nominee in 1988.

The 11th District seat opened up when U.S Rep. Phil Gingrey made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.

Georgia U.S. Senate opening leads to House candidate scramble

Open Senate race in 2014 triggers three openings in Peach State’s House delegation.

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

georgia mugATLANTA (CFP) — When the electoral smoke clears in November 2014, Georgia’s congressional delegation will look a whole lot different than it does now, thanks to an open Senate race that has triggered a flurry of House departures.

Three sitting Republican House members – Jack Kingston of Savannah, Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Paul Broun of Athens – have all announced bids for the Senate seat, which opened up with Republican Saxby Chambliss decided to retire.

This has left three of the state’s 14 districts with open races. However, none of those districts are likely pickups for Democrats.

Kingston’s 1st District is along the state’s Atlantic coast. Gingrey’s 11th District includes Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, and Broun’s 10th District cuts across largely rural areas in the eastern part of the state. All of those areas are heavily Republican. Mitt Romney took 67 percent in Gingrey’s district, 63 percent in Broun’s, and 56 percent in Kingston’s.

Karen Handel

Handel running for Senate after taking on Planned Parenthood

In addition to Kingston, Gingrey and Broun, the GOP Senate race has also drawn former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who has deep roots in heavily Republican North Fulton County and is a protégé of former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Handel got into a runoff for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010, shooting to a surprise first-place finish in the first round of the primary after a last-minute endorsement from Sarah Palin. But she could not hold off the runoff charge of then-Rep. Nathan Deal, who went on to win the governorship.

She then became vice president of the Susan B. Komen Foundation and became mired in controversy after the breast cancer-awareness group pulled its grants to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Handel eventually resigned, but the flap could help her with pro-life groups in her fight for the GOP Senate nomination.

Kingston and Gingrey are both veteran members of the state’s GOP House delegation. Gingrey is from the Atlanta suburbs, which is where GOP races are usually won or lost. However, Kingston’s base on the coast is also a heavily Republican area that could provide enough votes to get him into a runoff in a four-way race.

Paul Broun

Broun: Evolution from “pit of hell”

Broun, a medical doctor by trade, is the most controversial figure in the race. A widely circulated YouTube video showed him giving a speech to a fundamentalist Christian group in which he said evolution, embryology and the Big Bang Theory were “lies from the pit of hell.” He has also charged that President Obama is a “socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies.”

No doubt those views will appeal to some elements of the Georgia electorate. The question for Broun, though, is whether those kinds of statements will have much appeal among more mainstream conservative voters in the Atlanta suburbs.

On the Democratic side, Rep. John Barrow opted not to leave his House seat to make a run for the Senate. That has left Democrats to line up behind Michelle Nunn, a political newcomer and the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn.

In the 1st District, five Republicans are so far seeking the House nomination, including State Sen. Buddy Carter and former Kingston staffer David Schwarz, along with former State Sen. Jeff Chapman, businessman Darwin Carter and Bob Johnson, a surgeon and former Army ranger.

In the 10th District, the crowded field so far includes Republican candidates Jody Hice, Brian Slowinski, Mike Collins, Stephen Simpson and State Rep. Donna Sheldon.

In the 11th District, former Republican Rep. Bob Barr, who defected to the Libertarian Party to become its presidential candidate in 2008, has returned to the GOP fold and is making a bid for the seat, joined by State Rep. Edward Lindsey and State Sen. Barry Loudermilk.

Across the South, anomalous House districts few and far between

Only eight House districts in the South had different presidential and congressional winners in 2012, leaving few targets for either party in 2014.

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

(CFP) — In a few little corners of the South, Democrats sit in congressional seats from districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. There are also seats – even fewer in number — where Republicans represent districts Barack Obama won

These anomalous districts – districts that behave one way in the presidential vote but the opposite way when it comes to picking a congressman – are, as you might expect, top targets for both parties in 2014.

But for Democrats hoping to make inroads on Republican hegemony in the South, the bad news is that across the entire region, there are only eight such seats — and five of those are seats Democrats must defend.

First, let’s take a look at the five seats occupied by Democrats that Mitt Romney carried in 2012:

north-carolina mugNorth Carolina 7 – Veteran Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre held on to this seat by his fingernails in 2012, winning by a mere 650 votes over former Republican State Sen. David Rouzer. In this district, which takes in the southeast corner of the state including areas near Fayetteville and Wilmington, Romney clobbered Obama by 19 percentage points.

McIntyre is at the top of the Republicans’ target list. Not only does McIntyre face a rematch with Rouzer, he is also facing a primary challenger, New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, who thinks McIntyre hasn’t been supportive enough of the president.

McIntyre is white; Barfield is black. Overall, the district is 30 percent black, which means the black vote could tread close to a majority in a Democratic primary.

west-virginia mugWest Virginia 3 – Another longtime Democratic officer holder, Rep. Nick Rahall, carried 54 percent in here in 2012, at the same time Romney was crushing Obama by 32 percentage points in this district, which takes in the southern third of the state.

Rahall is hoping the power of incumbency can once again turn back a challenge from Republican former State Del. Rick Snuffer, whom he has beaten twice before.

georgia mugGeorgia 12 – Democratic Rep. John Barrow won a healthy 54 percent in this district in 2012, where Romney topped Obama by 11 percentage points. On paper, this should be a solid GOP district. But Georgia Republicans, to their great frustration, have not been able to defeat Barrow in five tries, even after gerrymandering his hometown of Athens out of the district.

Barrow was recruited by national Democrats to run for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, but he opted for another House run instead. On the Republican side, an already contentious primary is shaping up between John Stone, the former chief of staff to Rep. John Carter of Texas, and Augusta businessman Rick Allen. Barrow beat Stone by 30 points in 2008.

florida mugFlorida 18 – Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy narrowly ousted Tea Party favorite Allen West in 2012 in this district, which takes in parts of Martin and St. Lucie counties on Florida’s Treasure Coast. West went down even though Romney carried the district with 52 percent of the vote.

Perhaps the best news for Murphy, a top GOP target in 2014, is that West declined a rematch. A smorgasbord of Republican officeholders and activists are considering this race, with no clear frontrunner so far on the GOP side.

texas mugTexas 23 – In this majority Latino district that sprawls across the desert from El Paso to San Antonio, Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego ousted Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Conseco by a narrow margin in 2012.

Republicans hope to get this district back, and Conseco is considering a rematch. However, the former congressman would have to get past a Republican primary opponent, Dr. Robert Lowry, a Ron Paul acolyte.

Now, let’s take a look at the three districts where Republicans hold seats that Obama carried in 2012:

virginia mugVirginia 2 – Republican Rep. Scott Rigell easily kept this seat in 2012 with 54 percent of the vote, even though Obama narrowly bested Romney here. While Rigell is a top Democratic target in 2014, this is a GOP-leaning district where Obama overperformed in 2012, due to the fact that 22 percent of the electorate in the 2nd District is black.

Earlier this year, Rigell was the target of an ad campaign from the National Association for Gun Rights, which hit the congressman for sponsoring legislation that would increase penalties for people who illegally purchase guns and transport them across state lines. Rigell, a lifetime member of the NRA, called the group’s charges “laughable.”

Despite that salvo, Rigell hasn’t faced any serious trouble from the right, and, so far, Democrats have struggled to come up with a top-tier candidate to take him on.

florida mugFlorida 13 – When Bill Young came to Congress, bell bottoms were in and Nixon was still The One. After 22 terms, he’s the longest serving Republican in the House, and there has been speculation that the octagenarian might retire instead of seeking re-election in 2014.

If he does, this district, which includes parts of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Dunedin in the Tampa Bay area, would be a prime opportunity for Democrats. Obama narrowly carried the district in 2012, even as Young was easily swatting away his latest Democratic challenger, St. Petersburg attorney Jessica Ehrlich, who is running again in 2014.

Florida 27 – In 2012, Obama carried this district, which was something of a surprise given that it includes heavily Cuban-American areas of Miami and Hialeah, which are traditionally Republican turf. But Obama clearly overperformed here in what has to be considered a safe district for Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is seeking her 11th term in 2014.

Ros-Lehtinen, the first Latina and the longest serving Republican woman in the House, carried 60 percent of the vote here in 2012.

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