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John Barrow Is Running for Secretary of State

Former congressman and Athens-Clarke County commissioner John Barrow is running for secretary of state, he announced at an ACC Democrats barbecue on Sunday.

Barrow, a Democrat who’s shown a knack for winning in conservative areas, will be a strong candidate for the open position. Current Secretary of State Brian Kemp, another Athenian, is leaving the post to run for governor.

Barrow said in a press release that he refuses to “stand on the sidelines when we face such huge challenges” and vowed to protect the right to vote, cut regulations and crack down on fraud.

“None of this has anything to do with partisan politics,” he told the AJC, “and I won’t allow it if I’m elected.”

Barrow, a lawyer, was one of ACC’s original commissioners after unification and represented Five Points until 2004, when he stepped down to run for Congress, beating several other Democrats and Republican incumbent Max Burns in a swing district that included Athens, Savannah and Augusta.

He served five terms in spite of repeated GOP efforts to oust him. Republicans in the state legislature removed Athens from his district, then Savannah, another Democratic stronghold, leaving him with Augusta and a deep-red swath of rural East Georgia. He survived by portraying himself as a pro-gun rights fiscal conservative who frequently split from his own party, but Rick Allen finally defeated him in 2014.

Barrow had followed his district to Savannah and Augusta, and moved back to Athens after his loss to Allen.

Democrats recruited Barrow to run for an open Senate seat in 2014 and challenge U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson in 2016, but he declined.

Four Republicans are also vying to replace Kemp: State Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus, state Reps. Buzz Brockway of Lawrenceville and Brad Raffensperger of Johns Creek, and Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle.