He’s supposed to be a long shot, a dark horse candidate going up against a well-financed incumbent.
But don’t tell that to Ray McKinney. In fact, the former nuclear project manager believes he can unseat John Barrow, the three-term Savannah Democrat, for Georgia’s U.S. House 12th District.
So does John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, who earlier this week called the 12th one of five potential upsets across the nation.
“We call it cautiously optimistic. We’ve got support from all over the district, from Democrats, Republicans and independents,” McKinney said.
McKinney, who lost in the 2008 Republican primary to John Stone, said he’s had Democratic county commissioners across the far-flung 22-county district tell him they’ve been longtime Barrow supporters — but they like what he has to say.
McKinney has a 19-page how-to guide for creating and growing jobs on his Web site. He’s a proponent of nuclear power, having worked as a vice president for Continental Field Systems, a nuclear and chemical services company. He noted the expanding Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro recently took in 10,000 tons of steel for expected work — all from Japan.
The nation could build 100 more nuclear plants today, McKinney says, but regulations and red tape get in the way. Building those plants could put tens of thousands of workers back on the job, he claims. Georgia is second only to California in job losses from June 2009-June 2010.
After working as a craftsman at Gulfstream, McKinney joined Continental Field Systems, starting out “with an LTD station wagon and a U-Haul trailer,” he said. The company eventually grew into a $20 million a year enterprise.
“People talk about jobs; I know jobs,” he said. “I know how jobs are created.”
There has been only one debate between the two candidates, in Milledgeville in July. McKinney has used sound clips from the debate prominently in his radio ads.
“John agreed with me on almost every answer I gave,” McKinney said.
McKinney also charges that Barrow has backed Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s candidacy for the top post in the U.S. House three times — but won’t say whether he will support her again in January. He also said that though Barrow voted against such controversial measures as the health care reform package and cap and trade, he helped craft the legislation.
“He’s very good at talking out of both sides of his mouth. John Barrow will tell you how he voted against something. He voted for it knowing it was going pass,” McKinney said. “He actually helped write it, and then he comes back and tells you bad it was and why he voted against it. Call me silly, but that’s a little two-faced.”
“If they take a little bit of time to study the issues, they can find Barrow anywhere on any issue,” he said. “And you’ll find Ray at one point on every issue. You may not agree, but you’ll know where I stand.”
Barrow began the campaign with more than $1.8 million in his war chest, a huge amount from a Congressional race. McKinney’s campaign had raised a little more than $200,000 as of Oct. 13.
Yet Barrow’s mention of McKinney in his campaign spots, McKinney said, is an indication of how seriously the incumbent takes the challenger’s threat.
“John is smart, and he knows his only advantage is name ID. That’s it,” McKinney said. “What our pollsters told us was six weeks ago is if he starts using your name, he’s given up on name ID. And he’s started using my name in his ads.”