Then-U.S. Senate candidate Jim Barksdale speaks during an election night party in Atlanta on Nov. 8, 2016. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM) HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Former Isakson opponent quietly reenters political arena

The Atlanta investment manager, who lost his U.S. Senate bid to Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson 18 months ago, has recently gotten involved in the congressional campaign of a fellow Democrat in the Athens-based 10th Congressional District. And Barksdale said he’s open to helping other candidates in the future – and perhaps running for office again himself.

“I would like to do something, but it’s a matter of what’s my highest and best use, and I’m still exploring that,” Barksdale said in an interview this week. 

He added: “I haven’t ruled out running again, let’s put it that way.” 

Barksdale has kept an extremely low profile since his roughly 14-percentage point loss to Isakson in November 2016. That followed a campaign in which the soft-spoken political newbie mirrored many of Bernie Sanders’ policy proposals but failed to pick up much momentum after spending the first weeks of his candidacy hidden from public view

In the time since, Barksdale has returned to work at the investment company he formed more than 30 years ago. He’s largely avoided the political arena, although he did host a fundraiser for 6th District Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff last year. 

Barksdale has taken on a more public role this year campaigning for U.S. House candidate Richard Dien Winfield. He was the first to endorse the University of Georgia philosophy professor, who is running on a Sanders-esque platform for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe. Barksdale spoke at Winfield’s campaign launch event in Athens earlier this year and revived his dormant campaign listserv to solicit donations on Winfield’s behalf. 

Barksdale said he chose to get involved in Winfield’s campaign because of the candidate’s “unique” platform, which includes a federal job guarantee modeled after the New Deal programs of the 1930s. He said that an economic platform that looks out for workers can gain support even in a district like the 10th, which backed Trump by 26 percentage points in 2016. 

“That need to get workers ... to address their needs for employment opportunities and better wages, is very real whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” he said. “These are dinner table issues.”

Barksdale said he briefly thought of running for Austin Scott’s U.S. House seat in South Georgia this cycle when it appeared no Democrat was challenging the Tifton Republican, but he shelved the idea when software developer Fred Swann announced his candidacy. (Swann later switched races to run for agriculture commissioner.)

He said he’d consider running for U.S. Senate or another office and that he would want to stake out a “more aggressive” platform, advocating for policies such as a single-payer health care system. 

In the meantime, Barksdale plans to get involved in other Georgia races after next week’s primary, including some statewide contests. He had particularly kind things to say about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. 

“I want to do it for people who I think are unique, and I think Richard (Winfield) is unique. I think Stacey Abrams is unique,” Barksdale said. 

Read more: A Bernie-styled progressive challenges uber-conservative Georgia Republican

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...