In the decade since he left Congress, Bob Barr has gone from Republican to Libertarian and back to Republican again. He announced Thursday that he wants voters from his new party – same as the old party – to send him back to his old job in the U.S. House.
Barr, 64, of Smyrna, became the first declared candidate to succeed Rep. Phil Gingrey, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat next year.
Barr served four terms in the U.S. House before losing in a Republican primary to Rep. John Linder in 2002 when the two were matched up after an unfriendly redistricting.
After he lost, Barr turned to the Libertarian Party and was its nominee for president in 2008. Openly campaigning against Republican nominee John McCain, he won just 0.4 percent of the nationwide vote.
But Barr returned to the GOP before the 2012 election, backing Newt Gingrich in the primary and Mitt Romney in the general election. In a phone interview Thursday, Barr said the GOP has become a better place to be.
“I think it’s found its roots and coalesced more around individual liberty and small government that were always at the heart of” the party, Barr said.
Asked if Republican primary voters would be concerned about his apostasies, Barr said, “I don’t think so, because they really want to see some things get done up there. They know I’ve been there, know I got things done in the eight years I served up there: Second Amendment issues, helping to get us to a balanced budget as we did in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. Republicans want to get things done.”
A former federal prosecutor, Barr runs an Atlanta consulting firm, practices law and teaches at Kennesaw State University.
More than four years after he ran, his presidential campaign still had $157,000 in unpaid debts at year’s end.
The 11th District Barr seeks to represent is an overwhelmingly Republican swath of territory that extends north and west from Buckhead into Cherokee County. He could have to fight several Republicans for the honor.
State House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, of Atlanta, wrote a message to supporters Wednesday saying he will decide whether to run within two weeks. Others who could join the Republican field include businesswoman Tricia Pridemore of Marietta and state Sens. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville and Judson Hill of Marietta.
Barr touts himself as the only one who already knows his way around the Capitol and someone who would start off with eight years of seniority.
“We can’t waste time with a novice up there,” he said.
While in Congress, Barr was known as a bombastic, television-ready conservative. He championed gun rights and helped prosecute President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Cobb County GOP chairman Joe Dendy, who said he is not picking sides in a primary, said Barr’s name recognition should help him in much of the district and he is not sure whether the party switching will prove to be a liability.
“At least he did come back,” Dendy said. “And we welcome him back.”