By Molly K. Hooper and Eden Stiffman - 06/13/10 10:27 PM EDT
Rep. John Barrow is not as popular among his House Democratic colleagues as he used to be.
Far fewer of Barrow's colleagues in the House have contributed to the Georgia Democrat's reelection campaign this cycle than they did in previous years. Barrow attracted widespread criticism from the left after voting against the final health reform bill earlier this year. That vote has been a focal point of his primary challenger's campaign.
Five other elected Dems gave money to Barrow through their leadership political action committees: Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), retiring Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and politically vulnerable Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.).
That is in stark contrast to Barrow’s support at this time in the 2006 and 2008 cycles. In 2006, 53 Democratic lawmakers had contributed to his war chest. In 2008, the figure was 22.
Barrow’s campaign spokeswoman, Jane Brodsky, said in a statement that “there is no correlation whatsoever between the number of lawmakers who have contributed financially to Congressman Barrow's campaign and the level of support he has from his colleagues."
Two years ago, Barrow faced a difficult primary in 2008 against an African-American candidate. Then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) endorsed Barrow, and the incumbent cruised to victory in a district that has about 40 percent black residents. Barrow is facing the same primary opponent this year and Obama has not come out in support of Barrow.
The Georgia primary is scheduled for July 20.
Barrow contends that the drop in cash from colleagues has little to do with his vote against the president’s healthcare reform bill.
In an interview with The Hill, the Athens native joked about the fewer donations: "Thanks for making me aware of that. Maybe I should go to work on some of my colleagues.”
That may not be necessary, according to Emory University political science professor Alan Abramowitz, who contends that Barrow is “not in trouble.”
Barrow may not need the additional resources from his colleagues in a tough election year for Democrats. The Georgia lawmaker has already raised just over $1 million, according to the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Barrow’s primary opponent, former state Sen. Regina Thomas, told The Hill that she has raised close to $45,000 to date. As of the March 31st filing, Thomas had raised $21,279.
Barrow has spent a total of $339,652, leaving him with $825,221 on hand. Thomas has spent $17,451 and is left with $4,294.
Still, the conservative Democrat’s vote against the healthcare bill upset many of his constituents in the 12th district.
Thomas says she is “hearing from so many people that wouldn’t give [her] the time of day in 2008 … the healthcare vote was the final straw for a lot of them.”
The district is not liberal, however. Barrow narrowly defeated a GOP incumbent in 2004. Should he win the primary, Barrow is expected to face a challenging race this fall, but he would be the clear favorite.
Despite Barrow's vote on health reform, the Georgia AFL-CIO decided to endorse Barrow.
In a scathing letter to local chapter presidents of the Retired Communications Workers of America (CWA), James Starr, a political coordinator for the labor movement in Georgia, called the endorsement of Barrow “unbelievable.”
“The president of the Savannah Central Labor Council, told us that they recommended Regina Thomas not John Barrow. They are the 12th Congressional District of GA. This endorsement is unbelievable,” Starr, the president of Metro Atlanta’s CWA, wrote in a May 26 letter.
Leaders on the local Savannah Regional Central Labor Council did not respond with comment for this story.
Starr told The Hill that Thomas has since been invited to speak to the Savannah Federation of Teachers banquet on June 23.
The labor split comes on the heels of an Associated Press report that Georgia State Democratic Chair Jane Kidd issued a notice to local Democratic chairs to refrain from bad-mouthing Barrow. If not, they should resign their posts, according to Kidd.
Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University, said, “The African-American population in Barrow's district, as well as liberal whites, were very disappointed with Barrow's healthcare vote.”
Black told The Hill he is confident that Barrow will not get the same share of the vote as in the past. Still, he does not expect that Thomas, his African-American challenger, has enough of a presence to win.
After securing Obama's endorsement, Barrow defeated Thomas with 76 percent of the vote in 2008.
Not all Democrats are bitter at Barrow.
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who has not contributed to Barrow this cycle, said he would come up with some cash for his Georgia colleague.
“I would give if he asked. He’s a good congressman and I’m glad to support him,” Weiner pledged, adding with a laugh, “You just cost me two grand, great!”