One of the most acrimonious and expensive Congressional races will end Tuesday.
Incumbent Democrat John Barrow is facing a challenge from Lee Anderson, and the two camps and their supporters have flooded the airwaves with commercials touting their candidates.
Barrow’s campaign contributions have topped $2.6 million, an astounding amount for a Congressional race, according to his Oct. 17 Federal Election Commission filing. His campaign has spent $1.9 million and has no debt.
Anderson’s campaign has taken in just over $1 million and has spent $930,000, with more than $165,000 in debt, according to recent FEC filings.
“We’ve had very different campaigns,” Barrow said during a visit to Effingham County last week. “My message has been a personal message, a positive message. I oppose wasteful spending.”
Barrow also is boasting of endorsements from the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Anderson has been endorsed by former foe Maria Sheffield and by Georgia Right to Life.
Anderson, a former state representative, intimated he has a groundswell of support in his bid to unseat the four-term Democrat.
“I’m encouraged by the overwhelming support I’ve received all across the district,” he said. “It’s clear that folks here in Georgia are ready for a change. They’re tired of the big government, big spending, big debt agenda of President Obama and his buddy, John Barrow.
“But I also won’t take anything for granted,” Anderson continued. “I’ll continue to meet with voters throughout the district to discuss my plans to balance the budget and get Americans back to work. Basically, I’m a grassroots campaigner. My team and I are running wide open, and I’m confident we’ll finish strong.”
Barrow said some of the biggest distinctions between he and Anderson are on taxes and Medicare. Barrow said Anderson wants to privatize Medicare, while Barrow prefers keeping it as a guaranteed benefit program.
“You don’t have to hurt seniors if you’re prepared to do the hard work of cutting the waste,” Barrow said.
Anderson has backed a program that would convert Medicare and Social Security into individualized savings accounts, akin to 401Ks, Barrow said.
“They would not be as valuable to you as what you are giving up,” he said. “They were established as insurance plans that you would never outlast and that would never be taken away. That was a terrible deal for Social Security; it’s an even worse deal for Medicare.”
In a previous interview with the Herald, Anderson said he would not cut Medicare.
“We need to take care of our senior citizens,” he said. “They have paid their dues and it’s time to take care of them.”
Anderson said the Affordable Care Act will cut more than $716 billion out of Medicare.
“I will never cut Medicare,” he said. “I will never vote against our senior citizens. They’ll tell you anything you want to hear to get a vote.”
Barrow also charged that Anderson backs a national sales tax, without eliminating the federal income tax.
“The last thing our national government needs is both a great big sales tax base and a great big income tax base,” he said. “That’s what they have in Europe. We don’t need that in this country. Those are pretty big issues.”
Anderson said he wants to cap federal spending and make having a balanced budget mandatory.
“It’s time to go to Washington and make it law,” he said.
But the candidates themselves have had big guns brought in during the campaign. Groups such as The House Majority PAC, Congressional Leadership Forum, Americans for Tax Reform and the National Republican Congressional Committee all have weighed in with commercials.
“We’re not getting any coverage of these in 30-second bites,” Barrow said. “You don’t see any of it on the other side. It’s all outside money, and it always hits below the belt and it plays fast and loose with the facts.”
Anderson and Barrow did not meet in any debates across the district after Anderson beat Rick Allen in an August primary runoff.
One of Barrow’s recent campaign commercials points out Anderson’s insistence on not debating Barrow. Anderson had said he would not debate Barrow until the incumbent stated publicly who he supported for president.
“It’s a real shame my opponent won’t come out and debate these issues,” Barrow said. “Unless you’re prepared to answer these questions, people won’t know what you’re for. He is for privatizing Medicare.”
Barrow, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, said he doesn’t always vote with the Democrats and has reached across party lines numerous times for legislation. He answered the charge that he has voted with President Obama 85 percent of the time, stating many of the votes taken were not of a substantive nature and many were pro forma votes.
“It describes one year three years ago. I voted in agreement with the Republican majority leader more than half the time,” Barrow explained. “I think it’s important to have a member of Congress who can work with folks on both sides of the aisle, not only with different administrations. That’s a very important requirement of the job. That’s one of the biggest differences between me and my opponent.
“You have an obligation to work with whoever is in office, whether you like them or not.”
Barrow said he has voted with President Obama when he thought the president was right and against him when he thought he was wrong.