The race to replace US Senate candidate Phil Gingrey (R) in Georgia’s 11th Congressional District, which includes the city of Marietta, half of Cobb County, and all of Cherokee and Bartow counties, has been quiet so far, but a new poll suggests things will heat up substantially before the May 20 primary.
State Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R) just released an internal Conquest Communications survey (March 20-24; 600 likely GA-11 Republican primary voters) that projects the poll sponsor and former Rep. Bob Barr (R) to be in a tight contest at the top of a crowded field of candidates. According to the Loudermilk data, the two are tied with 12 percent support. Businesswoman Tricia Pridemore, a former Gov. Nathan Deal (R) appointee, trails with four percent, and state House Majority Whip Ed Lindsay records three percent. Two minor candidates follow.
With less than eight weeks remaining in this primary campaign, the candidates will begin to make their moves. In a multi-candidate open seat race, it is rare when a contender has enough support to win a nomination outright. Almost always, in states that feature a run-off system, such campaigns are forced to the secondary election.
If the survey is correct, it is clear that Sen. Loudermilk and former Rep. Barr will advance to the July 22 run-off election. The 11th District’s strong Republican voting history means the eventual GOP nominee will become the next congressman.
Bob Barr was originally elected to the House in 1994, and served four terms. The 2001 redistricting plan split Barr’s original 7th District and he chose to seek re-election in the re-drawn 7th, against then-Rep. John Linder (R). The intra-party pairing proved to be no contest, as Linder defeated Barr in a landslide. Back in 2002, many questioned why Barr chose to fight in a Republican primary instead of then running in the 11th District, originally a marginal seat that obviously could elect a Republican since Gingrey would go on to carry the district in the general election. In the 2008 election, then out of office for six years, Bob Barr left the Republican Party and became the Libertarian nominee for president.
Returning to the present, after toying with launching a primary challenge against Rep. Tom Graves in the newly drawn 14th District (2011 redistricting plan) in 2012, Barr refrained from entering that race and now finds himself in this open contest.
Though he apparently is well positioned to qualify for a run-off, Barr defeating Loudermilk will be no easy task. For a former north Georgia congressman with strong name identification to only register in the 12 percent range in any poll suggests that he should effectively be considered an underdog in a run-off situation, if this polling data is anywhere near accurate.
To complicate matters even more for Barr, usually viewed as the most conservative candidate in any race that he enters, the Tea Party Leadership Fund has given its endorsement and support to Loudermilk. This suggests that Barr’s stint with the Libertarians is costing him in this attempt to resurrect his political career in a Republican primary setting.
The 11th District campaign is yet one more interesting race in the action packed Georgia primary. It is a state that will be drawing more than it’s share of political attention this year beginning right now.