CONVENTIONAL WISDOM holds that incumbents will retain Georgia's 13 U.S. House of Representatives seats, now held by eight Republicans and three Democrats. But each party is trying to motivate its base, thus trying to ensure a greater turnout that could tip the scales.
Historically in Georgia, more GOP-leaning voters troop to the polls in a presidential year than in an "off" year. So state GOP leaders hope for a long-shot upset in the largely rural 2nd Congressional District where U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop is challenged by Republican Dylan Glenn.
Atlanta pollster Dr. Whit Ayers thinks this could be the sleeper congressional race of 2000. He sees more white voters trending toward Glenn in the country's only majority white district featuring two black candidates. Bishop votes center-left, and had the National Rifle Association endorsement last time. This year NRA board member and Georgia U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, as well as other GOP leaders, are making sure the many hunters in Glenn's district know he is a staunch Second Amendment defender.
Then there's Barr's race in his suburban Atlanta 7th District. That's the congressional race Georgians should watch on Nov. 7 to detect any national trend toward either party.
Democrats hope for an upset of the nationally-known conservative hero for two reasons: 1) Challenger Roger Kahn is dumping lots of his own whiskey fortune money into his campaign coffers; and 2) with Joe Lieberman on their national ticket, Democrat strategists feel more Jewish voters will turn out. Naturally, Kahn is emphasizing his Jewish background.
Barr's opponent is a clever carpetbagger. After stepping down there years ago as head of Empire Liquor Co., Kahn sold his Buckhead mansion in Atlanta and moved to a Bartow County farmhouse - in Barr's district. A year later, he announced his candidacy.
In the August primary he spent an incredible $600,000 to defeat local Democrat Jim Williams, who spent $8,000. The final tally revealed Kahn had spent nearly $25 for every vote he received - a statewide record.
Kahn knew that liberal and homosexual activists around the nation would target Barr for obvious reasons. He was the first congressman to advocate the removal of President Clinton. He authored and secured passage of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, making it harder for homosexual "marriages" to be officially sanctioned by states. And the pagan Left of the Democratic Party hates Barr because he is an unapologetic advocate of voluntary public school prayer and supports the public display of the Ten Commandments.
It's ironic that Kahn supporters label Barr "too partisan." As a U.S. attorney appointed by President Reagan, he vigorously prosecuted criminals without fear or favor. He convicted a dishonest Atlanta-area GOP congressman - even at a time when some Republicans were asking him to "go easy." But that is not Bob Barr's style, as TV viewers learned to appreciate watching his articulate questions and speeches when he was one of 12 House managers presenting the successful impeachment case against President Clinton.
In recent days, with Kahn pouring so much money into advertising, conservatives nationwide have rallied by opening their checkbooks to help their champion. That's why, when the final reports are in, this will no doubt be the most expensive U.S. House campaign in Georgia history.
Reapportionment in the mid-1990s made GOP U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss' 8th Congressional District less Republican. But Chambliss will hang on, even though a Mercer University law professor decided to challenge him.
The Washington weekly Human Events labels challenger Jim Marshall "the kind of Democrat that national party leaders like to see contesting seats in historically conservative districts: "he ... says next to nothing about hot-button issues like abortion and gun control (and) employs the self-characterization `conservative' with little supporting evidence. ..."
That couldn't be more accurate. In fact, it's also an apt description of Roger Kahn.
Phil Kent is the senior editorial writer for the Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.