New mission for former Augusta candidate Rick Allen, others




ATLANTA — A pair of unsuccessful congressional candidates have taken up a new challenge that may be even more daunting than running for office.

Last week, Rick Allen, of Augusta, who barely lost the Republican nomination in the 12th District, and Martha Zollar, edged out of the GOP nod in the 9th, announced they had teamed up to lead the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

Two legislators have joined them, Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Martinez, and Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.

Harbin has some experience as the first Republican chairman of the Georgia House Appropriations Committee in 13 decades, but House Speaker David Ralston cut him loose from the post, leaving Harbin in a position to be as candid as he wants.

McKoon, still a freshman, started off being candid by sponsoring legislation to prohibit legislators from accepting gifts from lobbyists. Although the leadership in the House and Senate eventually came around to his position after an overwhelming straw poll during the primary, they didn’t get there joyfully.

The co-chairmen also bring another quality: time.

“We both have a little time on our hands right now,” Allen said. “She was run off, and so was I.”

Besides coming up short in close contests, Allen and Zollar have the perspective of having touched base with a lot of people recently.

“We both know a lot. Let me tell you: You travel the 12th District, and this is on everyone’s mind,” he said.

Fix the Debt aims to organize in key states in an effort to apply a grassroots squeeze to those who are in Congress during the post-election, lame-duck session and President Obama.

“If they’re pressed by their constituents, then you’ll see action,” Allen said.

It’s not that the president and members of Congress don’t at least give lip service to reducing the deficit, Allen said. It’s that no one agrees on the solution.

Democrats call for raising taxes on upper-income Americans. Republicans, such as Allen and Zollar, demand that spending be cut.

Fix the Debt is a bipartisan group aligned with the Concord Coalition that champions the Simpson-Bowles plan for coordinated spending cuts and tax increases through the elimination of deductions.

Allen said that only Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s plan of spending cuts would satisfy him. That’s because he thinks everyone who isn’t poor and too disabled to work should pay something in taxes.

“I don’t think we have poor people in this country, I’ll be honest with you,” Allen said.