Four Republicans are already in the race to replace Kemp, who is running for governor: state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus; state Reps. Buzz Brockway of Lawrenceville and Brad Raffensperger of Johns Creek; and Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle. Democrat R.J. Hadley, a former Rockdale County tax commissioner, has also filed paperwork to run, but it's uncertain whether he will stand down.
Republicans are likely to paint Barrow as a creature of Washington. In a Facebook post, McKoon called Barrow a “former Nancy Pelosi lieutenant” — a reference to the Democratic House leader, even though he voted against her re-election to that top party post in 2011.
McKoon also acknowledged that Barrow’s candidacy raises the profile of the race.
“The stakes for this race just went a lot higher,” McKoon said.
Barrow was first elected to represent an east Georgia congressional district in 2004. Redrawn districts forced Barrow to move from Athens to Savannah to Augusta during his five-term tenure, and by the time of his 2014 defeat, he was the last white House Democrat in the Deep South. Along the way, Barrow carved out a profile as a fiscal conservative who often crossed his party.
Barrow's ability to hold GOP-leaning territory made him a tantalizing prospect for higher office. He was recruited to run for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2014 but decided instead to run again in the 12th District, losing to Republican businessman Rick Allen. He also was discussed as a possible challenger to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson last year, but he opted against it.
In his statement, Barrow said he’s frustrated that “people are working harder and harder and still finding it hard to make ends meet” and said he’d bring a new perspective to the office held by Republicans since 2007.
“Today, we have too many people in Atlanta who act like they do in Washington — who put partisan politics ahead of what’s in the best interest of Georgia,” he said. “As a county commissioner and a member of Congress, I’ve always put Georgia first, and that’s what I’ll do as our secretary of state.”