Fleming unquestionably the better candidate

We normally don't endorse candidates in primary elections when there's a contested general election waiting.

But this is just too important.

We feel Republican voters will be making an extraordinary mistake if they pass up the opportunity to send a man of Barry Fleming's stature and character to Congress.

Certainly a growing number of people are concerned about newly revealed misdeeds in short-term incumbent Paul Broun's past.

Broun "falsified financial documents in an effort to obtain a loan and misrepresented his assets and debts during bankruptcy proceedings, a federal judge ruled in 1983," according to a recent story in the Athens Banner-Herald. The judge ordered Broun to pay an Americus bank $69,653.07.

Further, "The Internal Revenue Service placed a lien on Mr. Broun because he owed $61,584.10 in back taxes from 1977 through 1981," the story continues. "He paid the taxes in the late 1980s, according to legal documents.

"Mr. Broun also went to court with an ex-wife over whether he was paying all of the alimony and child support required by his divorce settlement."

These facts didn't come to light in the last election -- perhaps, as the Athens paper noted, because few considered Broun a serious candidate. Now, with a year under his belt, it will take extra effort to unseat him.

The effort is well-spent to elect Barry Fleming.

The former state House majority whip from Harlem is so respected that the Medical Association of Georgia's political action committee has endorsed him against Broun.

And Broun is a medical doctor!

In just six years in the state House, four of them as the second-ranking Republican, Fleming compiled an imposing record as a serious legislator who gets things done, from tort reform to empowering prosecutors to tax cuts and property rights.

In contrast, Broun has made much of a few swim-against-the-tide "show" votes in Congress that do nothing to enhance his or his district's position in Washington.

The 10th District seat's former occupant, the late Charlie Norwood, also swam against the tide -- but had the conviction and charm to take others with him.

Fleming does too, and carries with him none of the questions dogging Broun. Fleming, a former assistant district attorney, has led an exemplary personal and professional life.

Besides his unassailable credentials, Fleming flashes the eloquence of a prosecutor and the moral persuasion that made Charlie Norwood a legend here and in Congress.

It shows in the accolades Fleming has earned in just a few years in the halls of power -- awards from Georgia's cities, hospitals, district attorneys, family advocates and more.

And if anyone in Athens is wondering about his loyalties, he has two degrees from the University of Georgia.

Broun's loyalties may be more circumspect: We've never seen a more overly solicitous politician, who actually had to be upbraided by constituents in the past year for his annoying computer-generated phone calls to their homes to advertise his presence ad nauseam . Among insiders, Broun's personal ambition is legendary.

Fleming, on the other hand, has shown nothing but leadership in his public service, first as county commissioner and commission chairman in Columbia County. Before that, he was an aide to two congressmen, U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and Gov. Joe Frank Harris.

Barry Fleming is the kind of man who can hit the ground running in Washington and never leave his principles behind. He'll rise through the ranks quickly, as he did in Atlanta, but with his integrity intact and our interests and the nation's interests foremost in his mind.

He is a citizen legislator as contemplated by the nation's founders, and a rock-solid conservative in the mold of Charlie Norwood and the people of the 10th District of Georgia.

It is never easy to unseat an incumbent, even a one-year incumbent, nor is it often openly recommended. We do not do so lightly. Between the questions rising up from this incumbent's past, and the future we envision with Barry Fleming as our congressman, we not only break with tradition, we do so with a sense of compelling urgency.

Don't just vote for Barry Fleming for 10th District representative to Congress July 15 -- or this week, during early voting. Make absolutely sure you do it. Leave yourself a voicemail, put a note next to your toothbrush, send yourself one of those "get out and vote" Hallmark cards. Whatever it takes.

Congress is nothing to monkey with, or to settle for "good enough" in the voting booth. We deserve the best.

We deserve Barry Fleming.

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