Barrow, Anderson in heated battle for 12th Congressional District seat

mstucka@macon.comOctober 21, 2012 

  • Candidates for 12th Congressional District

    Lee Anderson

    Age: 55
    Party: Republican
    Occupation: Farmer; auction aide
    Political experience: State representative for four years. Served as Columbia County commissioner and Columbia County school board member.
    Education: Attended but did not graduate from Brewton-Parker College and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

    John Barrow (incumbent)
    Age: 56
    Party: Democratic
    Occupation: Attorney
    Political experience: U.S. congressman for eight years. Served as Athens-Clarke County commissioner.
    Education: Graduate, University of Georgia. Graduate, Harvard Law School.

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 Georgia’s 12th Congressional District -- which stretches from Laurens County to Augusta, Savannah’s 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 Obama’s 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.

“Everything’s on the table,” he added, with Medicare and Social Security for people who aren’t retired or near-retired. During an interview, he wouldn’t say whether or not he’d 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 shouldn’t be doing. But he also says Anderson plans to cut Medicare.

“He’s saying there’ll be no changes for the current seniors, but that’s code language for 55 and above, you’re going to keep it, and if you’re 55 and under, you’re going to have a different deal,” Barrow said. “This is the same stuff we’ve seen over and over again, with folks who don’t 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.

“He’s 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. “It’s 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.

That’s 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 he’s 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 he’s 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 we’re not going to be making any progress whatsoever,” he said.

Anderson said he’d be willing to work with anyone willing to cut the budget, but wants action rather than words.

“It’s 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.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service

Top Jobs

View All

Find a Home

$259,900 Macon
4 bed, 2 full bath, 1 half bath. City living at it's finest...

Find a Car

Search New Cars