MARIETTA, Ga. – Former Georgia congressman Bob Barr, a conservative Republican who rose to prominence during the Clinton impeachment hearings, bowed out of a congressional race Wednesday in a district some political commentators said was too moderate for him.
Barr had touted himself as the front-runner to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Johnny Isakson, but said Wednesday he was withdrawing to spend more time with his family and pursue other opportunities.
"I was looking forward to getting back in there, but it was a decision based on some long conversations with Jeri, our kids and our grandkids. We concluded the time was just not right," Barr said.
Barr, a fierce opponent of gun control and abortion rights, may have been "too raw" for voters in Atlanta's northern suburbs, said Merle Black, a political science professor at Atlanta's Emory University.
"If he looked like a runaway winner, I don't think he would have been making this announcement," Black said.
Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said the race could have been Barr's best chance for a comeback after his lopsided loss to Rep. John Linder last year in a GOP primary brought on by state Democrats who redrew district boundaries.
Barr said he would consider a later run for office, but some analysts said Wednesday's announcement might signal the end of his political career.
"Most politicians do not recover from losses and particularly one as resounding as Bob Barr's was (against Linder)," said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist.
Sabato added that Barr's fund-raising may have been hurt by his standing among Republicans in Washington. "He was not one of more popular members of the party caucus," Sabato said. "He was seen as being pretty far to the right, not in tune to President Bush's compassionate conservatism."
Barr gained national attention as the first lawmaker to call for President Clinton's resignation over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He was also one of the House prosecutors who made the case that the Senate should expel Clinton.
Clinton was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate.
Barr was the congressional liaison for the gun lobby, but also often sided with liberals in defending privacy rights.
Barr said he plans to return to his law practice, do more political media commentary and write a book. The American Civil Liberties Union recently hired him as one of its few conservative consultants, and he also is working as a commentator for Cable News Network.
With Barr's departure, the only other announced candidate for the 6th District is GOP state Sen. Robert Lamutt. However, state Senate Majority Leader Tom Price and state Rep. Robert Hines, both Republicans, have said they will enter the race next week.