On the campaign trail: It’s officially down to Anderson and Allen in the 12th

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In an outcome that was completely expected, the recount of the Republican primary in the 12th Congressional District has confirmed that state Rep. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) is in a runoff election with Augusta contractor Rick Allen.

The secretary of state’s office conducted the recount on Thursday after it was requested by Columbia County attorney Wright McLeod, who finished third in the July 31 primary.

The returns in that race initially showed that McLeod finished 584 votes behind Allen, the second-place finisher.  After the recount was completed, the margin decreased slightly to 580 votes, but McLeod was still in third place and out of the runoff.

Allen and Anderson continued to campaign during the recount period as if they would be in the runoff against each other, which in fact they are.

Allen released a scorching TV commercial this week (view it here) that tries to link Anderson with President Barack Obama and contends that Anderson “betrayed” the district with his votes on tax legislation.

The voice-over script:

After all Barack Obama has put us through, Lee Anderson made it worse, with his votes on everything from higher taxes on hospital beds to the largest tax increase in Georgia history.

An 800 million dollar sales tax increase on the food it takes to feed your family and medicine too many Georgians need to survive.

Barack Obama devastated our economy.  Lee Anderson betrayed our trust.

Allen’s ad is referring to HB 277, which authorized the recent referendum on the T-SPLOST transportation sales tax, and HB 1055, which contained a 1.5 percent hospital bed tax that Sonny Perdue requested two years ago to help balance the state budget.  Legislative records show that Anderson voted for both bills during the 2010 General Assembly session.

In the case of the T-SPLOST tax, a majority of the voters in Anderson’s district agreed with him – the region centered around Augusta was one of only three regions that passed the sales tax on July 31.  In addition to the hospital bed tax and increases in about 80 state licensing and inspection fees, HB 1055 also provided senior citizens with a state tax exemption on their non-wage income.

Anderson’s campaign said it was “hypocritical” for Allen to be criticizing Anderson over the T-SPLOST vote because Allen’s construction company handled several school and government projects in the Augusta and Columbia County area that were funded by tax dollars.

“Rick Allen has made millions of dollars off of government contracts,” Anderson’s campaign said. “He has used some of those profits to contribute thousands of dollars to liberal Democrats.”

Trashing FDR

A popular line of attack for Republican politicians during the 1930s was to go after President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal policies he championed in his attempt to deal with the Great Depression.

While you often saw Roosevelt denounced as a “traitor to his class” during that era, today he is ranked by many historians as the greatest president of the 20th Century for, among other things, his role in leading America to victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

For Roosevelt bashers, happy days are here again.  State Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) is attacking his opponent, Martha Zoller, in the 12th Congressional District’s GOP runoff because she once said something nice about Roosevelt.

“Martha wrote that Franklin D. Roosevelt, the man who created the earliest beginnings of our federal social programs and added billions to our national debt, was ‘fiscally conservative,’” Collins said in an email distributed Thursday.

“FDR generated many of the tax and spend policies that have led to our catastrophic national debt — far from fiscally conservative,” Collins contended.

The Roosevelt remarks were part of a longer attack in which Collins bashed Zoller for making positive remarks about such Democrats as Obama, Hillary Clinton and Michael Dukakis.

“Doug Collins is desperate, and it’s getting ridiculous,” said Zoller spokesman Ryan Mahoney.  “Desperate Doug is lobbing blatantly false attacks on Martha Zoller this week to distract voters from his pitiful record in the Georgia Assembly.”

Mahoney knocked Collins over the same hospital bed tax that Allen is using as an issue against Anderson in the 12th District race.

“Doug doesn’t want us to remember his vote on the hospital bed tax that Grover Norquist panned,” Mahoney said.  “Doug doesn’t want us to remember his vote for the 30-year extension of the hotel/motel tax in Atlanta.  Doug doesn’t want us to remember his support of T-SPLOST, which now penalizes regions that voted against the ‘largest tax increase in Georgia history.’”

Bring back the CUC

Steve Oppenheimer, the Democrat running against PSC incumbent Chuck Eaton, has proposed bringing back the office of the Consumer Utility Counsel, a lawyer who once represented the interests of consumers when Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light requested rate increases.

The position of consumer utility counsel, which is authorized under state law, was eliminated several years ago when then-governor Sonny Perdue arbitrarily decided to cut off funding for the office. The position has remained unfunded ever since.

“The consumer utility counsel staff acted as an honest voice on the Public Service Commission — one that helped protect the people of Georgia,” Oppenheimer said in a campaign video.

“Four years ago we lost representation when the governor’s office eliminated the budget for the counsel,” Oppenheimer said. “Now, consumers lack protection, and we have paid more than $4 billion in rate increases since then.”

Comments on McKillip’s fall

Despite the support of House Speaker David Ralston and a huge advantage in fundraising, Rep. Doug McKillip (R-Athens) saw his political career come to an end in the Republican primary against Regina Quick.

Pete McCommons of the weekly publication Flagpole offered some thoughts on that shocking upset by Quick:

Doug couldn’t lose. If he had any weakness, it was the possibility that some voters might not trust his overnight conversion from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican. As it turned out, that proved to be his Achilles heel—that and the fact that a viable Republican candidate did run against him, a cantankerous fighter of a candidate who has paid her dues in the ACC Republican party.

The possibility of Quick’s entrance into the race put McKillip on the horns of a dilemma. He had to prove without a doubt that he was no longer the Obama Democrat that he was in 2010. Here’s where it became damned if you do, damned if you don’t for McKillip. In firing up the base in the boondocks, McKillip began to rub salt into the wounds he had inflicted on Athens Democrats. If Quick had been, say, a Jackson County commissioner, McKillip could have left Athens alone and gone for the rural vote. But Quick is an Athens Republican, and Athens has the lion’s share of the vote. McKillip also had to prove himself to the Speaker and the other legislators in Atlanta, who could raise the big money for his campaign.

So, McKillip set out to teach liberal Athens a lesson. He injected himself into our local commission-redistricting process, ultimately using the power of the Legislature to override our local committees, our mayor and commission and our charter. In the same legislative session, he got a signature abortion bill passed that seemed clearly aimed to please abortion fanatics while needlessly interfering with the decisions of doctors and mothers.

There’s the rub: the more McKillip tried to prove his conservative bona fides, the angrier Athenians got; not just Democrats, but Republicans, too, resented his meddling in our local government and didn’t trust his “more Republican than thou” stance.

In the end, many Democrats in District 117 did the unthinkable and voted in the Republican primary, made easier because there were no contested Democratic races in that district. They were the difference in a race made close by Athens Republicans’ overall rejection of McKillip.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Chuck Eaton , Doug Collins , Doug McKillip , Lee Anderson , Martha Zoller , PSC , Regina Quick , Rick Allen , Steve Oppenheimer , Wright McLeod