Majette mulls return to Congress in 2006

Former Rep. Denise Majette (D-Ga.) — like fellow ex-House members Max Burns and Mac Collins, both Georgia Republicans — is looking to return to Congress next year. Majette, reached by telephone yesterday at her Atlanta-area law firm, said, “I’m keeping all my options open.”

Former Rep. Denise Majette (D-Ga.) — like fellow ex-House members Max Burns and Mac Collins, both Georgia Republicans — is looking to return to Congress next year.

Majette, reached by telephone yesterday at her Atlanta-area law firm, said, “I’m keeping all my options open.”

The former congresswoman — who spent one term in the House before running unsuccessfully against then-Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) for the Senate seat vacated by Zell Miller (D) — added, “I’ve been approached by a number of people who have asked me to consider running for Congress again.”

Majette indicated she is open to running in either the 4th District, where she lives and which is held by Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D), or the 12th, which is represented by Rep. John Barrow (D).

Majette beat McKinney, who was then the incumbent, in a 2002 Democratic primary and went on to win the general election. Last year, with Majette exiting the House to run for Senate, McKinney won her old seat back.

Barrow, meanwhile, faces the prospect of running in a district where he no longer lives. New congressional-district lines proposed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature put Athens, Barrow’s hometown, in the 10th District, which is held by Rep. Nathan Deal (R).

The new district lines would also make the 12th more African-American, Democrats say, pointing to Washington and Hancock counties, which used to be in the 3rd but would now be in the 12th and include large black majorities.

Barrow is white; Majette is black. The new district lines have yet to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice but are expected to pass muster, Georgia Democratic sources indicated.

Georgia Democrats said they had not heard any rumblings from Majette since she left politics but were not surprised by talk of her running again.

Jeff DeSantis, the Georgia Democratic Party’s executive director, declined to comment on Majette’s possibly getting back into politics. “We don’t take a position in primaries,” he said.

Democratic state Sen. Charles Walker, whose 22nd District in Richmond County largely overlaps with Barrow’s congressional district, indicated that Barrow is not well-known in some of the more rural reaches of the 12th. Walker added that there’s been plenty of talk about a crowded Democratic primary for the House seat.

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), said a Majette-Barrow primary would be helpful but unnecessary. “Any time you can have a divisive primary on the other side, that’s somewhat helpful, but the bottom line is how much is this new district going to help us,” Forti said. “We believe it’s going to help us to beat the Democrat no matter who that is.”

Forti acknowledged that the 4th remains out of the reach of the GOP, with or without the new district lines.

McKinney did not respond to questions submitted to her in an e-mail message. Her spokesman, Richard Searcy, said the congresswoman is unlikely to comment on the 2006 race.

Roman Levit, who ran Barrow’s congressional race and is now his chief of staff, called Majette “a perfectly nice person” but added that Barrow is moving aggressively to reach out to voters. He noted that Barrow would be opening district offices in Augusta and Savannah next week — he already has one in Athens — and that the congressman has hired someone to meet with voters in rural areas.

“We’re preparing for a tough race,” Levit said. Asked if Barrow’s decision to make his campaign manager his chief of staff is a sign that Barrow is paying particularly close attention to politics, Levit said: “He wants to make sure that he has someone that he can trust and someone that he knows well near him in the congressional office. What that says about the politics, I don’t know and I’d rather not get into it.”

In other possible match-ups, Collins, who formerly represented the 8th District, is said to be looking at a race with Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall (D), and Burns has indicated interest in challenging Barrow in a general election.

Majette, who was criticized by many Democrats for abandoning her House seat to pursue what they called a quixotic Senate bid, said she has not been in contact with anyone in Washington. She added that supporters who have encouraged her to run are “folks who live here in Georgia, and that’s where the real support would need to be.”