Stakes high for GOP as heated 12th District race heads to runoff

SAVANNAH, Ga. — One candidate is a hay farmer whose campaign has relied on a network of political contacts made over the years as he climbed from the local Farm Bureau to the Georgia Legislature.

Republican 12th Congressional District candidates Rick Allen (from left) and Lee Anderson face off in a runoff Tuesday. The winner will face Democrat John Barrow.  SARA CALDWELL/FILE
SARA CALDWELL/FILE
Republican 12th Congressional District candidates Rick Allen (from left) and Lee Anderson face off in a runoff Tuesday. The winner will face Democrat John Barrow.

The other is a political newcomer running on his experience as a business executive and a barrage of TV ads largely paid for with $540,000 from his own pocket.

The stakes are high the GOP in Tuesday’s runoff between state Rep. Lee Anderson of Grovetown and construction firm CEO Rick W. Allen of Augusta. The victor will face U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the Deep South’s last white Democrat in the U.S. House.

The GOP believes it has a strong shot of defeating Barrow after the 12th Congressional District was redrawn by Republican state lawmakers last year. In the July 31 primary, Anderson finished more than 5,000 votes ahead of Allen.

On the attack

Both men have gone on the attack since. Allen has poured money into TV ads that blame Anderson for supporting tax increases that they say hampered economic recovery in Georgia. Anderson countered with ads and mailings calling Allen a false conservative because he’s donated money to Democrats and to a group that supports them.

“Watch out! Rick Allen’s brought out the manure spreader,” an announcer says in an Anderson ad that features a cartoonish splatter of mud landing on his rival’s face.

“It’s despicable. It’s a new low,” said Allen, though he acknowledges writing a check in 2002 to a Democratic congressional candidate, Champ Walker, when both were members of the same Bible study class.

Allen, 60, kept up the offensive Thursday, appearing alone next to an empty podium at what turned out to be a one-sided debate broadcast statewide by Georgia Public Television. Anderson not only skipped the debate, but also seemed to be keeping a low profile altogether. Anderson declined requests for an interview by The Associated Press.

“He is trying to stay focused on meeting voters and raising money,” Anderson’s campaign manager, Reagan Williams, said in an e-mail. The campaign also denied requests for details of Anderson’s schedule.

Allen argued that ducking debates won’t help Republicans oust Barrow, a four-term congressman and Harvard-educated lawyer.

“You can’t beat John Barrow and hide from him,” Allen said at the TV debate. “Why are you hiding from me?”

Keeping quiet is a front-runner’s strategy that could pay off for Anderson, 55, as long as his supporters are able to fire up voters. He carried 13 of the district’s 19 counties – from his home turf of Columbia County to rural Coffee County 160 miles to the south.

Rural advantage

Anderson boasts of endorsements from fellow lawmakers, mayors, sheriffs and other officials throughout the district. Also backing him are two ex-rivals from the July primary, attorneys Wright McLeod of Augusta and Maria Sheffield of Dublin.

A former president of his county Farm Bureau, Anderson won much of his support in farming communities such as Bulloch County and Toombs County in Georgia’s Vidalia onion region. His campaign signs with their tractor logo became common sights along rural highways.

“That was one of the biggest things that appealed to the residents – they could relate to him more,” said Travis Chance, a Republican city councilman in Statesboro. “You have this good ol’ country guy who could be your grandfather who wants to go up to Washington.”

Anderson didn’t fare so well in the district’s largest city, Augusta. He got just 827 votes there – barely a third of Allen’s votes in his home county.

Votes on taxes

Former Augusta Mayor Bob Young, a Republican and an Allen supporter, said he suspects Allen will prevail because he’s focused his attacks on tax issues that are critical to GOP voters.

“Rick’s used the runoff campaign period to really hammer home that Lee is someone who supported tax increases,” he said.

After spending $290,000 of his own money on the primary, Allen loaned his campaign $250,000 more for the runoff. Much of it went to ads hammering Anderson for supporting the transportation sales tax referendum most voters rejected last month. Anderson voted in the state House to put the tax on the ballot and said he would support it at the polls because Georgia needs roads and bridges.

Anderson, who loaned his campaign $178,000 for the July 31 primary, has also come under fire for voting in 2010 to impose a 1.45 percent tax on hospital revenues, which was passed to secure federal matching funds for Medicaid. The Georgia Hospital Association supported the tax increase.

Anderson insists his overall record shows he’s worked to cut taxes. Gov. Nathan Deal backed him up by issuing a statement saying, “Lee Anderson strongly supported my conservative tax reform agenda, which cut taxes on Georgia families and businesses.” The governor stopped short of endorsing Anderson.

Allen had to defend himself this week when Anderson mailed fliers accusing him of making donations that supported not just Democratic congressional candidate Walker in 2002, but also the two Democrats that Allen’s been running against – Barrow and President Obama.

While an Augusta attorney with a similar name – Richard E. Allen – contributed $250 to Barrow in 2006, there’s no record Allen the candidate has. He did give $2,500 to the Associated General Contractors of America between 2002 and 2009. That group gave $1,000 to Barrow in 2010, and supported Obama on stimulus spending.

Allen said he stopped giving to the group because it supported Democrats. He apologized for donating $1,000 to Democrat Walker, his fellow Bible study member, a decade ago.

“Frankly it was a mistake, and I should’ve never done it,” Allen said.

Turnout in runoff elections is typically low and there aren’t many other races Tuesday to coax voters back to the polls.

In rural Coffee County, Anderson vs. Allen is the only rematch on the ballot. And that concerns Jimmy Kitchens, a county commissioner who’s supporting Anderson.

“The hardest thing in a lot of these counties where there are no local elections is getting people to go back and vote in a congressional election,” Kitchens said.

The candidates

Rick Allen

AGE: 60

FAMILY: Wife Robin; four children; five grandchildren

OCCUPATION: Contractor

EDUCATION: Auburn University

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None

Lee Anderson

AGE: 55

FAMILY: Wife Donna, son Ben, daughter Katie

OCCUPATION: Farmer

EDUCATION: Abraham Baldwin College, Brewton Parker College

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Columbia County Board of Education, 1985-92; Columbia County Commission, 2004-07; Georgia House: 2008-present

Comments (11) Add comment
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soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 08/18/12 - 07:42 am
0
0
Mixing politics and religion
Unpublished

they do love it don't they. Abomination in the Sanctuary. Liars and self serving ego maniacs. In the pulpits, no less. Not for a prayer meeting either. There is no choice of one from column A or one from column B. Only one column exist. If you don't like the way the district votes, redraw the boundaries. If you don't want voters to participate in a given election, make it appear a hardship with only one issue. Politicians have more in their bag of tricks that the Devil.

You may not like John Barrow, but you options are John Barrow v.2 and John Barrow v.3 Different faces, same motives.

Chambliss and Isakson have only one justification/purpose and that is to prevent a person with (D) behind their name from taking their Senate seats.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 08/18/12 - 07:45 am
0
0
The Amish make only one item
Unpublished

they will not "stand behind". A manure spreader.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 08/18/12 - 07:47 am
0
0
One looks like he just got caught
Unpublished

and the other looks confused? Will the real man of the little people please stand up.

Dixieman
14487
Points
Dixieman 08/18/12 - 08:49 am
2
3
Either one

is better than Barrow. Hopefully after Tuesday we can all rally 'round the GOP and get a Republican into the 12th district seat.

Pickett
67
Points
Pickett 08/18/12 - 10:21 am
4
3
It's Allen for me

"One candidate is a hay farmer whose campaign has relied on a network of political contacts made over the years as he climbed from the local Farm Bureau to the Georgia Legislature."

I think we all know this isn't a good qualification to have. If your best attribute for running for Congress is because you have friends in high places, then it's a surefire way to not get my vote. With Rick Allen, at least he's been in business for a long time and has some knowledge of how to get this economy turned around. I personally don't care who endorses you. I'm more interested in what you are focused on in getting elected. Both candidates seem to have similar concerns, but I trust Rick Allen more. So, that's who I'm voting for.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 08/18/12 - 12:09 pm
4
2
Political Class

Anderson is counting on his political class buddies to bail him out. When it comes to original thinking, Anderson is fourth tier.

I'd like to see someone go to Washington as U.S. Representative who knows how to solve problems, make a payroll, sharpen a pencil to be low bidder on multi-million dollar projects, build a business from scratch into large success, and remain accessible to those around him. That would be Rick Allen.

A GAME INSIDE THE GAME
17
Points
A GAME INSIDE THE GAME 08/18/12 - 12:31 pm
1
4
Lee Anderson for me.

I have none Lee Anderson for many many years he is a honest down to earth man. Any dealings I have ever had with him have been straight forward,what he tells you you can take it to the bank.I can tell you that Lee is for the people of Georgia in all ways possible,any descision he makes he has the best interest of this Great state and its people in mind.If you want a man that you can trust to represent you and our great state on the way to positive change I urge you to cast your vote for Lee Anderson for Congress.

notsurprised
88
Points
notsurprised 08/18/12 - 06:53 pm
1
3
tough decision

The ultimate goal, in my humble opinion, is to defeat barrow. But, I can honestly say, I personally have had 2 business dealings on a fairly large scale with Anderson and he was honest to the core. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. Never misleading in any way. Honesty is hard to find in politics. The only issue I have with Lee is he is not the best speaker in the world and he will not be able to dodge Barrow. That's the tough part.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 08/18/12 - 09:02 pm
1
1
@A GAME INSIDE

Thank you, Grateful Wife.

griff6035
3955
Points
griff6035 08/19/12 - 04:33 am
0
4
Rick Allen Auburn Grad!

All you Dog Fans should vote for Anderson!

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 08/19/12 - 07:49 am
0
0
Run off?
Unpublished

Sounds like they all have the "runs". Birds of a feather, flock to Washington DC. The Brotherhood of the Satan. Or BS for short. Bring your Christian Values and lay them before the Throne of the Beast.

SpiderLily
78
Points
SpiderLily 08/19/12 - 07:59 am
3
0
Lee Anderson and the Federal Reserve

Do you really want someone in Congress representing you who does not know what the Federal Reserve is? That is, frankly, a little scary. He may be a very honest and nice person but there is a certain intellectual component to the job that he clearly does not have.

nanowerx
1308
Points
nanowerx 08/19/12 - 10:24 am
3
0
...

Going with Allen; if Anderson gets it then I am going with Barrow. Anderson would not be good for us, he is not a real conservative, he loves tax increases and he is in the pockets of lobbyists already. If I can tell that you are going to sell us out BEFORE you even get to Washington, imagine how bad it will get once he got there? He can play that innocent, country boy routine, but I pay attention to how somebody votes, not how "down to Earth" they act.....and Anderson is not fiscally conservative one bit.

Remember, he openly supported the TSPLOST cash-grab by the DOT, and has campaign contributions from all the big guys in contracting/asphalt work (well, obviously with the exception of R.W. Allen, ha!) who will benefit greatly from it.

JRC2024
8607
Points
JRC2024 08/19/12 - 11:10 pm
1
0
I am for Rick Allen. I have

I am for Rick Allen. I have several dealings with him with large amounts of money and he and his company have always been very good at taking care of their obligations. He is a good
Christian person with a great family and has a good sense of money management. We need that desperately in Congress. Time to start getting rid of those that do not understand budgets and to not exceed them. Time to get someone in who will try to cut all programs of all sorts by enough to get us back to spending only what we have collected in taxes.

brendadale
30
Points
brendadale 08/20/12 - 07:58 am
0
0
Nanowerx, what are you? Rep or Dem Make up your mind

Nanowerx, You should be ashamed of yourself. If you would vote for Barrow, then you are not a Republican.
Take a stand on what you are. You flip flop very easily, don't you?
You need to do a little research and you would see that Rick Allen is not the man for the job. Lee is the only candidate that has the tenacity that it takes to do the job.

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