Barrow-Anderson fight for House seat draws $5 million — so far

mstucka@macon.comOctober 21, 2012 

Middle Georgia’s incumbent congressmen have a big cash advantage, campaign finance reports show, but millions of dollars are flowing past candidates’ campaigns.

The biggest funding gap is in Georgia’s 12th Congresssional District, where Republican Lee Anderson emerged from a bruising primary to face Democrat John Barrow. The redrawn district includes Laurens County, and total independent spending and contributions to candidates have hit the $5 million mark.

Barrow reported having no debt and just under $1.2 million in cash at the end of September. In contrast, Anderson reported having about $174,000 in cash -- and about $166,000 in debt for his campaign.

In Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of Bibb County as well as Peach and Crawford counties, both candidates have less cash. But the incumbent, Democrat Sanford Bishop, reported having about $378,000 in cash at the end of September, and no debt. That’s far more than Republican challenger John House, who reported having about $16,700 in cash but debts of about $12,800.

Unchallenged is U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican whose 8th Congressional District includes part of Bibb County and all of Bleckley, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Pulaski, Twiggs and Wilkinson counties. Scott reported having about $273,000 in cash and debts of $8,700.

But candidates’ own House races pale in comparison to the amounts of outside money flooding in through what are called independent expenditures. Though there are 435 members of the House of Representatives and all seats are up for election next month, the Barrow-Anderson fight is the 25th most costly House race in the nation in terms of independent expenditures.

And that money seems to be buying lots and lots of negative advertising, especially in Georgia’s 12th Congressional District.

Federal Election Commission figures show Anderson drew about $170,000 in support from independent expenditures, almost identical to Barrow’s roughly $171,000 in support. But Anderson endured $1.5 million in opposition money while Barrow has faced nearly $1.8 million so far.

All told, the race has drawn about $3.6 million in independent expenditures. The biggest names are the National Republican Congressional Committee, spending about $1.2 million, and about $890,000 from Center Forward, a pro-centrist organization that has ties to Blue Dog Democrats.

The Federal Election Commission reports no independent expenditures in Georgia’s 2nd or 8th congressional districts.

Georgia’s U.S. senators are not up for re-election this year. The junior senator, Republican Johnny Isakson, reported having about $1.5 million in cash at the end of September.

By Friday, the Federal Election Commission showed no report newer than June for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, who reported then that he had $1.2 million in cash. A spokesman for Chambliss said he’d filed his report on time, but the FEC doesn’t receive Senate candidates’ reports electronically.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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