SAVANNAH, Georgia — After a decade in Congress largely spent distancing himself from his own Democratic Party, U.S. Rep. John Barrow was defeated Tuesday by a Republican who told voters the congressman's claims of bipartisan independence were the words of a two-faced politician.
Unofficial returns showed Republican Rick Allen, owner of an Augusta construction company, denied Barrow a sixth term in eastern Georgia's 12th District. The national Republican Party had been hungry to take back the seat since Barrow first won it in a 2004 upset victory over one-term Rep. Max Burns.
Georgia lawmakers redrew Barrow's district after the last census to give Republicans a big advantage, requiring Barrow to win crossover support from conservatives. Barrow pulled that off in 2012, when he won by almost the same 55 percent margin Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney received in the district, which includes the cities of Augusta, Statesboro, Vidalia and Dublin. On Tuesday, unofficial returns showed Barrow carried only three of the district's 19 counties.
Allen and the National Republican Congressional Committee capitalized on voters' unhappiness with Washington and President Barack Obama by hammering Barrow with ads that linked him to the president. Barrow fought back with commercials that openly criticized Obama and fellow Democrats while playing up his endorsement by groups that typically back GOP candidates, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association.
But voters like Allen McClure, a 64-year-old retired teacher from Statesboro, decided it was time for a change.
"Rick Allen is a fresh face," McClure said. He called Barrow "a classic politician who's going to do and say whatever it takes to get re-elected."
The National Republican Congressional Committee pitched in a barrage of attack ads linking Barrow with Obama. Barrow fought back, but got tripped up by his own words when he declared in a TV commercial: "I don't vote 85 percent of the time with anybody." Republicans pointed to a 2012 fundraising memo in which the congressman said: "I have supported the President and the Democratic leadership 85 percent of the time."
Outside groups spent $7.3 million on the race, mostly on attack ads.