Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., will not run for retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss's seat in 2014, he announced in a press release this afternoon.
"I enjoy my work on behalf of the folks in the 12th District, and I look forward to continuing to serve them in the House of Representatives," Barrow said.
Barrow was Democrats' top choice for Chambliss' seat.
His decision to forgo the race leaves national Democrats pining for Michelle Nunn, an Atlanta-based philanthropist and the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn. Nunn and Barrow had reportedly met to discuss which of them would seek the seat, so his decision not to enter the race could be a sign that Nunn will get in. One Democratic strategist told us last week that Nunn's allies had signaled she would be a candidate this year, but skeptical Peach State consultants cautioned that they've heard this tune from Nunn before.
With Barrow out, Democrats say a primary is much more likely. Though Barrow was thought to be a strong candidate who would quickly clear the field, Nunn has never run for office before and strategists say she would be much more likely to draw a challenge. State Rep. Scott Holcomb told Hotline On Call that he is considering a bid, and Rep. Sanford Bishop, former Sen. Max Cleland and former state Attorney General Thurbert Baker have all been mentioned for the seat. Vernon Jones, who ran for the seat in 2008, has indicated that he is interested as well.
"National Democrats originally wanted Barrow but soon realized that he couldn't turnout women and Democrats in an off year election," said one Senate Democratic strategist. Nunn and Holcomb in particular are seen as further to the left than Barrow.
Barrow will instead seek reelection to the 12th District, a seat he won by just seven points in 2012 against a weak challenger. That's great news for House Democratic strategists, who would have a hard time holding onto the seat without Barrow; the district gave Mitt Romney a twelve-point edge last year. Barrow's district is actually more Republican than the state as a whole (President Obama lost by just eight points there), a fact Senate Democratic strategists had hoped to use that to coax him into the statewide race.
Three Republican members of Congress, Reps. Paul Broun, Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey, have already said they will run for the Senate seat. They will likely be joined by several other challengers in the coming months.
Rep. Tom Price and former Secretary of State Karen Handel are both considering the race, but are unlikely to challenge one another. Kelly Loeffler, who owns the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team, initially ruled out a bid, but a Republican strategist familiar with her thinking told On Call this week that she is reconsidering. Businessman David Perdue, cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, is also thought to be looking at a bid.