SAVANNAH — 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.
"It was a terrific win and hard-fought campaign," said Allen spokesman Dan McLagan. "Rick is looking forward to going to Washington to cut the size of government, fight for term limits and do everything else he talked about on the campaign trail."
Barrow said he looks forward to Allen's making changes in Washington as he issued a statement Tuesday night conceding the race to Allen.
"This election was about how best to change the culture of Washington and end the gridlock that has paralyzed our political system," he said in the statement, provided to the Statesboro Herald by spokesman Richard Carbo. "For 10 years, the people of Georgia's 12th District have given me the honor of my life to serve them. Every day, I tried to do what I thought they would want me to do. Today, they've chosen new representation, and I respect that. I congratulate Congressman-elect Rick Allen on his victory and will work with him to make this translation as smooth as possible."
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 almost the same the 55 percent margin Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney received in the district.
But this year, 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."
Bulloch County Republican Party Chairman Lawton Sack said Republicans are ecstatic that they finally got Barrow after several attempts.
"There's a sense of relief. There's a lot of us that have been working for the last 10 years to try and bring this about," Sack said. "Just to see all that hard work finally come to fruition, we believe now that we've got a representative now that is more representative of the district as a whole with our moral and family values. It feels real good."
Sack said political trends and an aggressive ad campaign helped Allen bring in the win.
"I think it's a combination of having the right candidate, one that was able to put up messages on TV, on the radio, reaching out to the voters," he said. "Some of this trouble we've had in the past was having a candidate that has not been well-funded at this time in the campaign. I also think it has a lot to do with this being the sixth year of Obama's eight years in office. There just seems to be a cycle with that, every six years, that the opposing party kind of steps up and people kind of get disgusted with the current leadership."
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.