Wolfing down with a Blue Dog

It’s lunchtime, and Rep. John Barrow is in a rush.

It’s a good thing that the freshman Democrat from Georgia’s 12th Congressional District has chosen Capital Q in Chinatown for a meal because it is A.) fast, B.) tangy and flavorful, and C.) relatively cheap.

Patrick G. Ryan
Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.)


This is not to say that the congressman embodies all of those characteristics. When I suggest that the Georgia-born Harvard graduate behaves more like a New Yorker than a Southerner, with his fast-talking impatience for enacting political change and quick wit, both he and his press secretary, Harper Lawson, shudder when they think how his Savannah, Ga., constituents would react to that description. It won’t be pretty, they predict.

But it also would be difficult to deny. Five minutes into the meal — a Styrofoam bowl of brisket and pork bathed in a mild barbecue sauce over a bed of rice — and Barrow is done with his “two-meat cowboy platter.” He has wolfed it down with equally fast-paced gulps of sweet tea.

Barrow says he understands his role as a freshman lawmaker and knows that things happen slowly in his world.

“I learned about seniority at a very young age,” he said. “I have a twin sister named Church. I was born eight minutes before her.”

As a freshman legislator, Barrow is in the middle of a tough reelection battle. A political neophyte when he was elected to Congress, some Republicans view him as an easy target.

Even though he may be a newcomer to politics, Barrow has no problem looking the part of a preppy Southern lawmaker. In fact, he could be straight out of central casting with his fashionable beige suit, a light-blue button-down shirt and a bright-orange tie with blue flowers. The image is complete with round silver spectacles and shiny white politician hair.

He likes to reel off Georgia history: the Battle of Bloody Marsh, the English settlers fighting with the Spanish and such. He says he can’t help it; he was raised on history. It also didn’t hurt that his mother taught history at the University of Georgia. 

Barrow hails from a family of strong women. In addition to being a teacher, his mother, along with his father, served in World War II. She was in the second class of women to go through officer training and emerged from the service with the rank of captain.

And then there was his Great Aunt Alfrieda who wrote and published poetry.

But right now, Barrow doesn’t have time to discuss all the powerful influences in his life. He’s done with his meal and ready to get back to work, but before leaving he seems to highlight his Southern credentials by making a passing reference to the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of mainly Southern centrist Democrats. (Whether he did so nonchalantly or on purpose is hard to say.)

Barrow is a forceful eater. He puts the meat and rice around, and shovels large portions into his mouth. In between bites, he boasts of how he brought this very barbecue to a recent Blue Dog Coalition dinner session. Each member takes responsibility for catering a meal.

“We should have ordered this,” Harper is saying of the “two-meat cowboy platter.” To which Barrow responds dryly: “They like what they got. Some of those guys bring pizza.”