Barrow Has Big Cash Advantage Over Primary Foe

Posted July 14, 2010 at 6:34pm

Recent financial reports show Rep. John Barrow is burying former state Sen. Regina Thomas in a mountain of cash ahead of their Democratic primary in Georgia’s 12th district next week. The primary is one of several top races on the Peach State docket Tuesday.

Barrow raised almost $204,000 from April 1 to June 30 and dished out about $374,000 during that time period. He’s spent more than $776,000 on his re-election bid so far this cycle.

During the second quarter alone, Barrow spent more than $140,000 on field and grass-roots strategy consulting fees. Other big-ticket items include a $53,000 fee for survey work in mid-April, more than $86,000 for media production costs in early June and $15,000 for a late June media buy.

Barrow ended June with more than $655,000 in cash on hand. Barrow has two campaign fundraisers scheduled in the next two weeks. One is a $500-per-ticket event this week on Capitol Hill while the other is a $1,000-per-ticket event during the Washington Nationals game against the Atlanta Braves at the end of the month.

All that fundraising and spending might seem like overkill against a competitor as poorly funded as Thomas.

Thomas’ recent filings show she raised about $2,400 from April to June and had just $6,600 in the bank on July 1. She’s spent just over $17,000 on her Congressional bid this cycle.

Barrow trounced Thomas by more than 50 points in the primary last cycle despite the fact that he was attacked by a liberal political action committee for being too conservative on issues such as tax cuts and the Iraq War.

But Georgia political insiders aren’t ready to count out Thomas just yet.

Barrow is white and Thomas is black, and she represented the Savannah area in the Georgia General Assembly for a dozen years. The district is about 44 percent black, meaning the primary electorate will likely be majority black.

Barrow was buoyed last cycle by the endorsement of several prominent national black leaders and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). But those endorsements weren’t forthcoming this cycle after Barrow chose to vote against the health care overhaul legislation that was President Obama’s top legislative priority.

“Odds are because John has the money and he’s the incumbent he’s going to win. But you never know until the vote,” Chatham County Democratic Committee Chairman Tony Center said. “Regina seems to be spending 99.9 percent of her time campaigning in the African-American churches. That’s how she won her state Senate and state House seat.”

National Republicans have shown little interest in targeting the seat this fall, but that would certainly change if Thomas somehow pulled off an upset in the primary. The GOP candidates are Michael Horner, a banker; Raymond McKinney, a project manager; Jeanne Seaver, an aviation executive; and Carl Smith, a fire chief.

Elsewhere in Georgia, newly minted Rep. Tom Graves (R) will be asking his supporters to go back to the polls just one month after winning a special election runoff to replace former Rep. Nathan Deal (R), who left Congress to run for governor. Five other Republicans will be on Tuesday’s ballot although former state Sen. Lee Hawkins and Chickamauga City Councilman Steve Tarvin seem to be the only two candidates still running active campaigns.

Still, with so many names on the ballot, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Graves forced into another runoff. If that happens, his competitor would likely be Hawkins once again. Hawkins, who hails from Hall County in the heavily populated southeast part of the district near Gainesville, could get a boost on Tuesday from having the gubernatorial race, and more specifically Deal’s name, on the ballot. Deal’s base is also in the Gainesville part of the district.

But Georgia GOP insiders say it’s hard to see how Hawkins would be able to carry a runoff, especially with so many fundraising avenues dried up since Graves’ special election victory.

Another Georgia primary to watch Tuesday will take place in the 4th district, where Rep. Hank Johnson (D) faces a pair of credible challengers: DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes and former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones.

Earlier this year, Johnson, who acknowledged in late 2009 that he has battled hepatitis C for more than a decade, earned some unwelcome attention for making a bizarre statement at a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the island of Guam could capsize if too many American servicemen were stationed there. Johnson later clarified that statement but not before it made its way around the Internet and had some political observers wondering if it might affect his re-election chances.

Johnson won a 2006 primary in the safely Democratic district in large part by positioning himself as the rational alternative to former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who was known for generating controversy during her time on Capitol Hill.