SAVANNAH, Ga. - U.S. Rep. Max Burns conceded defeat Wednesday in his bid for a second term in Congress, two years after the Republican won a stunning upset in a district drawn to be foolproof for Democrats.
Democrat John Barrow, a trial attorney and Athens-Clarke County commissioner, will now represent the 12th District, which covers 200 miles of eastern Georgia from Athens to Augusta to Savannah.
Based on voter demographics alone, Mr. Burns had been considered one of the nation's most vulnerable Republican congressmen. He was one of two GOP House incumbents defeated in elections Tuesday; the other was Rep. Phillip M. Crane of Illinois.
Unofficial returns showed Mr. Barrow winning by 8,402 votes, or 52 percent of the 213,454 ballots cast.
Mr. Burns met with lawyers and campaign staffers Wednesday morning to consider challenging the results, contending that many advance votes had not been counted.
But the freshman Republican opted against seeking victory in the courts and called Mr. Barrow to concede shortly before 1 p.m.
"He was very gracious about it," Mr. Barrow said. "He said he enjoyed his two years in Congress very much and expressed his wishes that I enjoy it as much as he did. He offered to assist me in any way possible to help with the transition."
Mr. Burns, 55, left his campaign headquarters in Augusta for his family farm in rural Sylvania and was declining all interviews, campaign spokesman John Stone said.
"Max decided it would be too divisive to hold out and try to overturn the results," Mr. Stone said. "We're done. He's gone back to take some well-earned time off at his farm and get some rye in for his cattle in the winter."
Mr. Burns waged a fierce campaign beginning immediately after Mr. Barrow won the July 20 Democratic primary. Mr. Burns had the advantage of incumbency and an edge in fund-raising - raking in $2.67 million compared with $1.77 million for Mr. Barrow.
But Mr. Barrow, 49, was never considered a true underdog. Democratic state lawmakers had designed the 12th District, one of two seats Georgia gained from the 2000 Census, to be a party stronghold.
Black voters, who typically lean Democratic, make up 39 percent of the district's voting-age population. In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore carried 12th District precincts by 54 percent.
"The real surprise, probably, was two years ago when Mr. Burns got elected," said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. "For a one-termer, he probably did as best as anybody could hope."
Both campaigns denied that demographics decided the race. Mr. Burns won handily in 2002 with 55 percent of the vote against Charles "Champ" Walker Jr.
Mr. Barrow, a county commissioner for 14 years, had to overcome repeated attacks that he flip-flopped his position on banning gay marriage. Mr. Barrow said before the primary that he opposed a constitutional ban, but later said Congress had introduced a version he would support.