As a white Democrat from the Deep South, John Barrow is the last of an endangered species. Republican challenger Lee Anderson hopes to make that species extinct.
The fight to represent Georgias 12th Congressional District -- which stretches from Laurens County to Augusta, Savannahs suburbs to Coffee County -- has national implications, and a Telegraph analysis shows the race has already drawn $5 million. In a newly redrawn district said to lean toward Republicans, both candidates are showing off conservative credentials, such as Barrow holding old family firearms while talking about his endorsement by the National Rifle Association.
Anderson goes farther: Barack Obama is a socialist who is destroying our great country and John Barrow, despite all his political spin, is one of Obamas biggest enablers, Anderson wrote near the top of the issues section of his web page.
Anderson said the federal deficit needed to be eliminated, saying every department except defense needed to be cut.
We need to make sure that we look at every department ... we need to cut the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), we need to cut the Department of Education, we need to get the money back to the state and local people and get the mandates, the paperwork off the teachers backs, Anderson said.
Everythings on the table, he added, with Medicare and Social Security for people who arent retired or near-retired. During an interview, he wouldnt say whether or not hed cut those programs.
In fiscal 2012, the federal government expected $2.5 trillion in revenue and $3.8 trillion in expenses, Office of Management and Budget figures in a draft budget show. That leaves a deficit of $1,327 billion. Total non-defense discretionary spending -- the whole of the government except for interest payments, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- came to $610 billion, or less than half of the deficit.
Barrow also says the federal government is too large and doing too many things it shouldnt be doing. But he also says Anderson plans to cut Medicare.
Hes saying therell be no changes for the current seniors, but thats code language for 55 and above, youre going to keep it, and if youre 55 and under, youre going to have a different deal, Barrow said. This is the same stuff weve seen over and over again, with folks who dont believe in Medicare and Social Security and want to get rid of it, either all at once or on the installment plan.
Barrow said Congress biggest job is to strengthen Medicare and Social Security so people never outlive their benefits.
Barrow and Anderson also fight over the revenue side of federal government.
Hes got some half-baked ideas that are very disturbing, Barrow said. He wants to add a new national sales tax, lower the income-tax on the upper-income folks and add it with the sales tax.
Anderson said the country needs to look at a flat tax. He also said he found good ideas in the 9-9-9 tax plan, proposed by then-presidential candidate Herman Cain as equal parts business transaction tax, personal income tax and federal sales tax.
How right is right?
Barrow and Anderson both say they want to work with the other political party, but fight over what that means and how closely Barrow is tied to President Barack Obama.
He votes over 85 percent of the time with Obama, Anderson said. Its in his fundraising letters he sends to people. Then he talks out the other side of the mouth and says he votes independent. How do you vote independent when you vote 85 percent or more with Obama?
Barrow said that 85 percent figure is taken from a single year, 2009. He said during that same year he voted with the Republicans whip, Eric Cantor, 54 percent of the time, in part because many congressional votes involve naming post offices or declaring Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Barrow argues that a better measure is how often he crosses the aisle to vote against his own party when the two are in disputes.
By the numbers, I am the 8th most independent member of Congress among the 435, Barrow said.
Barrow spoke for more than a half-hour in an interview without mentioning Obama by name, referring only to the administration until prodded.
Thats a sore point for Anderson, who has refused to debate Barrow until Barrow says on television who he plans to vote for for president and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Barrow calls that a dodge.
He just wants to avoid a discussion of what he stands for, Barrow said.
The two also differ over how they say they represent the district. Barrow said hes been representing Augusta for eight years, and moved there after getting redistricted away from his home in Savannah. He moved to Savannah after he was redistricted away from Athens, where he launched his political career in 1991.
Anderson notes hes run for three positions from one address, the county farm he was pulled from college to run. He said those deep roots would be best for the country.
Big money, big interest
The 12th Congressional race has attracted plenty of money. Barrow reported having about $1.2 million in the bank, while Anderson had about $174,000 in cash and $166,000 worth of debts.
Outside money, which the Federal Election Commission calls independent expenditures, has dwarfed both candidates abilities. Both have gotten about $170,000 worth of independent spending to support them, but Barrow was opposed by $1.8 million and Anderson was opposed by $1.5 million worth of money.
Barrow said he wants voters to support his efforts to continue finding middle ground, which is the only way anything from the House would get through the Senate.
We have to practice that kind of bipartisanship in the House, or were not going to be making any progress whatsoever, he said.
Anderson said hed be willing to work with anyone willing to cut the budget, but wants action rather than words.
Its time to send a farmer to Washington and let him straighten out the mess the lawyers have gotten us in, Anderson said.
Barrow is a lawyer.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.