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Georgia’s Burns Seeks Return to House

Former Georgia Rep. Max Burns (R) announced this week that he will seek to regain his old seat next year — setting up a likely rematch with now-Rep. John Barrow (D) in a seat recently redrawn by the GOP.

Burns, a one-time college professor who served one term in Congress before losing narrowly to Barrow last year, made the announcement Monday at the old Screven County Courthouse Square in his home of Sylvania.

“I’ve spent the last few months listening to friends, leaders and voters from all over the new 12th district,” Burns said in a follow-up statement released Tuesday, announcing his candidacy for the “new open” seat. “[My wife] Lora and I are both humbled and gratified at the tremendous amount of encouragement we’ve received. We’re excited. We will run a great campaign.”

Burns has been eyeing a race against Barrow in the Peach State’s southeastern 12th district ever since state lawmakers took up a mid-cycle redistricting effort earlier this year.

Under the new lines, which still must be approved by the Justice Department, the district would remain a Democratic-leaning seat. However, the new map puts Barrow’s Athens home and political base in Rep. Charlie Norwood’s (R) district.

Barrow, a former Athens-Clarke County commissioner, has said he will move and run for re-election in the new 12th, which stretches from Augusta to Savannah along the South Carolina border and still includes much of the territory he currently represents.

“No matter who runs in 2006 and no matter what version of the 12th district is settled upon, Congressman Barrow feels confident that he will hold onto this seat,” Barrow spokesman Harper Lawson said.

Lawson noted Burns’ current position as a government affairs consultant in the Washington, D.C., offices of Thelen Reid and Priest LLP, and questioned his ability to juggle “his job as a Washington lobbyist with the demands of running for Congress in southeast Georgia.”

He also took issue with Burns’ characterization of the 12th being an open seat.

“The new district, if it stands, will comprise 81 percent of the current district — that’s not an open seat,” Lawson said.

While the revised 12th still favors Democrats — and has a slightly higher-percentage black population — it has fewer urban voters, who have been traditionally considered more likely to go to the polls. The redrawn seat spans all or part of 22 counties, many of them rural areas to the west of Augusta and Savannah.

Barrow defeated Burns by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin in 2004. The current 12th was designed and drawn by state Democrats in 2001 to elect a Democrat. But Burns won the seat by a healthy margin in 2002 after Democrats nominated a seriously flawed candidate.

Burns is one of two former Georgia Congressmen looking to make a political comeback in 2006. Former Rep. Mac Collins (R), who represented what is currently the 8th district, is contemplating running again in the redrawn 8th district (currently the 3rd) against Rep. Jim Marshall (D).

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