The latest daily accusation in the hotly contested 12th Congressional District race involves cars used in a TV campaign commercial for Democratic incumbent John Barrow.
Ryan Mahoney, the spokesman for state Rep. Lee Anderson, is questioning where Barrow got a line of identical cars seen in the congressman’s ad touting his role in slashing government fleets. Mahoney said it “would be the height of hypocrisy” if Barrow used government resources to make his point.
“It’s time for Barrow to fess up and let us know where he got the cars and how much did it cost the taxpayers to film his commercial? We are all waiting,” Mahoney wrote in an e-mail, adding that Burke County residents in the district were wondering about the fleet of cars they saw going up and down a county road.
Barrow spokesman Richard Carbo had a quick response: The cars were airport rental cars that merely resembled a Government Services Administration fleet.
“We rented 20 cars from Enterprise at Augusta airport,” Carbo said. “We’ll call them ‘props’ for the commercial.”
Officials with the Burke County sheriff’s office and roads department were familiar with the commercial but had no recollection Wednesday of the road, Barnhart Drive, being closed or otherwise used to film a political advertisement.
In a response, Mahoney called Carbo’s comment “sassy” and asked who was driving the cars, what agency closed the road and why the cars have logos on them that Enterprise Rent-A-Car does not use. In the commercial, the cars appear to have blurred-out logos of some sort on their driver doors.
Carbo said that volunteers drove the rented cars and that the rural road probably wasn’t closed on the Saturday in August when the commercial was filmed.
“No taxpayer funds were used for anything,” he said.
Carbo provided The Augusta Chronicle a copy of an expense document showing that Friends of John Barrow paid $3,499.33 for 18 rental cars on Aug. 13. He said the logos were sign magnets the campaign used to make the cars appear to be government vehicles.
Barrow’s ad preceded the House of Representatives’ passage last week of a bipartisan resolution he helped author that cut the budget for future Government Services Administration fleet purchases, excluding vehicles used for national security, by 20 percent.
Barrow, who is seeking re-election in a redrawn and more heavily Republican district, and his Republican opponent from Grovetown have yet to meet face to face to discuss issues.
Since he was declared the winner of an Aug. 21 runoff with Augusta businessman Rick Allen, Anderson has refused several invitations to debate Barrow, who now lives in Augusta.
“If Mr. Anderson has any more questions, we’re happy to discuss them at any one of the debates we’ve both been invited to,” a statement from Barrow said.