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Secretary of state candidate speaks to local Democratic group
John Barrow, a former congressman and candidate for secretary of state in 2018, spoke at a meeting of the Democratic Women of Forsyth County. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

A former Democratic congressman stopped by Forsyth County this week as part of his campaign for state office in 2018. 

John Barrow, a former congressman and candidate for secretary of state in 2018, spoke at a meeting of the Democratic Women of Forsyth County on Thursday. The secretary of state handles business licensing and supervises and monitors elections, among other duties. 

“The office of secretary of state is probably the least appreciated and one of the most important jobs under our state constitution,” Barrow said. 

Barrow was formerly a commissioner for Athens-Clarke County from 1990 to 2004 and served as the state’s District 12 representative in congress from 2005 to 2015. 

He described himself as the “first, last and most:” the first person from his area to defeat a Republican incumbent in a decade, when he won in 2004; the last white Democrat congressman in the Deep South; and the most bi-partisan member of congress.

Barrow said he was also the most gerrymandered - redrawing electoral boundaries to support a certain party - member of congress. Barrow said his district was redrawn twice in a decade and called gerrymandering was “probably the number one threat to our representative democracy that we’re doing to ourselves.”

“It wasn’t what it did to me that I object to, it’s what it did to the voters, what it did to their choices,” Barrow said. “When you’re constantly churned around like a tossed salad and you don’t know your representative and they don’t know you, all you have to go on is a brand.

“That’s all you’re getting; you’re not getting a person, a relationship.”

While gerrymandering has been a hot topic nationally, Barrow said, responding to a question, lines shouldn’t necessarily be done only by computers either and said voters were also “sorting themselves out” and largely moving to like-minded areas, making gerrymandering easy. 

Barrow said the state also needed to make sure elections were secure, alluding to allegations that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections.

“There are people out there who are trying to mess with our elections,” Barrow said. “I can say this to a Republican as I can to a Democrat, you don’t want someone in some other part of the world messing with our elections.”

Also speaking at the event was Steve Smith, who is running as a Democrat for the District 26 special election on Nov. 7. Smith said one reason was he wanted to bring a working class outlook to the Gold Dome.

“There’s no people like us down at the Georgia legislature, where decisions are made on our lives and pocketbooks,” he said. “It seems that most every legislator is a doctor or a lawyer or a business owner or some other career that gives them the time and resources to be able to run for office.”