A grassroots crowd of about 300, many of whom were decked out in flannel shirts and blue jeans, gathered on the second floor of the popular sporting goods store Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna to listen to Barr give his announcement.
The seat also includes Bartow County and portions of Cobb County.
Stepping onto the podium in front of a wall lined with big game trophy mounts, Barr said his campaign manager wanted him to ask the crowd to turn their cellphones off.
“I want you to leave those phones on,” Barr said. “I want you to leave those BlackBerries on, those iPadss, those Samsungs, whatever they are, because I want you while I’m talking — and I will take no offense to this — to tweet and send messages to everyone you know that help is on the way! We’re here! We’re back!”
Barr said he would make the same commitment to the audience that he made during his previous eight years in Congress.
“And that is to stand up there with backbone, stand tall with the Constitution front and foremost in what I do, and fight not just to stop government from doing what it’s been doing for so long, but to roll back the tide of big government, of overspending that has taken away so much of what our Founders fought for, what we have fought for, what men and women on the front lines overseas and here in our communities fight every day and put their lives on the line to protect, and that is our constitutionally guaranteed individual freedoms,” he said.
He said now is not the time to send a novice to Washington with an administration that bills the country a trillion dollars in annual deficit spending causing the debt to skyrocket to nearly $17 trillion.
“When we have an administration that jerks from one international crisis to another with no clear vision of where this country should go, that tells the American people, as they did after the Benghazi debacle last fall, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it. We know what we’re doing.’ No friends. They don’t know what they’re doing. We have to tell them, and I will be your voice to tell them in Washington they don’t know what they’re doing, and we need to stop what they’re doing and turn this country around, and I vow to do that. I’ve done it before and I will do it for you again.”
Jay Wallace, owner of Adventure Outdoors, called Barr a great man.
“He’s a constitutionalist,” Wallace said. “He’ll represent us very well. I think he’s a guy that will go up there, and he’s going to try to instead of getting the job done, he’ll get the job undone, and I think that’s what we need. Less government. That’s where Bob Barr stands.”
Wallace said he believes Barr will win the race.
“The people of the district, they know him,” Wallace said. “They know what he stands for, and they know that he’s a fighter. He’s not a guy that goes up there and makes deals and compromises his goals or his morals or his integrity. He’s what we need.”
In 2006, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued Wallace, alleging he had created a public nuisance with so-called illegal sales of firearms that ended up on the streets of New York.
Wallace hired Barr to represent him, and the case was successfully resolved in his favor when the court found that Adventure Outdoors is not subject to personal jurisdiction in New York.
Among those at the Thursday’s announcement was Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, who said he has known Barr for as long as he can remember.
“I think he has a common-sense approach to the Constitution,” Bacon said. “He stands by his beliefs in the Constitution. He is going to be a great congressman for the district, and I think he will do well, and I would think … the Democrats are not looking forward to having him come up there.”
David Chastain of Acworth, who works for a defense contractor, said he supports Barr because he’s honest.
“The man is what he says he is,” Chastain said. “I actually think more Georgians if they got to know him they’d realize that he believes in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, he believes in personal property, he believes in the individual, and that’s what Congress has gotten away from, and I think he’ll help us.”
Barr said he was asked the other day why he wanted to return to Washington D.C., when he had a successful eight years there already, leading the impeachment of Bill Clinton, protecting Second Amendment rights, balancing the budget, reforming welfare, and cutting taxes. Barr said the answer is the same reason anyone would accept the challenge of righting the wrongs of the federal government.
“Our country ... needs leadership, they need experience,” Barr said.
President Barack Obama is leading the country into an abyss of economic ruin through overspending and over-taxation, he said.
“With one hand Washington takes our money away and spends it on weird programs,” Barr said. “On the other hand, they’re taking our rights away, our freedoms, our liberty, those things guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
Barr, who helped author the Defense of Marriage Act, was asked what role that would play in his campaign given the recent hearings before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“There will be so many issues we couldn’t even discuss them all here today, and a number of them will go to the heart of the issue involving DOMA that is before the Supreme Court now, and that is issues of federalism,” Barr said. “What we need to be doing ... is try to get the federal government out of issues. These are issues that need to be decided by the people of this country at the state level, not the federal government.”
Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Barr moved frequently because of his father’s job as a civil engineer who built water projects across the globe. Barr graduated from high school in Tehran, Iran. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University; a master’s from George Washington University and a bachelor’s from the University of Southern California. Barr and education attorney Glenn Brock formed the Brock Barr law firm in Marietta, a firm Barr left when he was appointed by President Reagan as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia in 1986. Barr went on to serve as president of Southeastern Legal Foundation in 1990 and was an official with the CIA from 1971 to ’78. He served in the U.S. House from 1995 to 2003 as Georgia’s 7th District representative and was the Libertarian Party nominee for President in 2008. He serves on the board of directors for the National Rifle Association.
“I would describe Bob Barr as a very intelligent grenade,” Bacon said. “He doesn’t back away from issues that he believes in and plus it does go along way that he does have eight years of experience, and will not have to be trained.”
Barr, age 63, and his wife, Jeri, CEO of The Center for Family Resources, have four children and eight grandchildren.
Jeri Barr, when asked what she thought about her husband’s announcement, said they would make it work for the family.
“When he lost his race for Congress in whatever year that was, I was happy to have my husband come home and have a normal family life,” Jeri Barr said. “I was sorry to lose him as my representative because he’s who I want to represent us. So I’m happy that he’s chosen to go back again because he is who I want to represent us in our community. I’m sorry I’ll lose him in our family life for a while, but we make that work.”
Gingrey announced Wednesday that he will run for the seat held by retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Moultrie), which frees Gingrey’s seat up for Barr to run for the U.S. House.