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Allen campaigns despite unseen challenger
Says national security, jobs, replacing Obamacare top issues
W Allen
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen

Although his general election challenger’s effort amounts to little more than having her name on the ballot, U.S. Rep. Rick Allen made a 10-day campaign bus tour to all 19 counties of the 12th Congressional District.

In an interview this week, he was asked what he hoped to accomplish by campaigning when his re-election seems a near certainty.

“Well, I go out and listen to people,” Allen said. “We’re the people’s House, and I’m constantly listening to the people.”

Just two years ago he won the seat for the Republican Party from then-Rep. John Barrow, the Democrat who spoke for the district for 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. This year Allen captured almost 79 percent of the votes in the Republican primary May 24, winning the GOP nomination over primary challenger Eugene Yu.

Meanwhile, two candidates, Patricia C. McCracken and Joyce Nolin, contended for the Democratic Party’s nod to challenge Allen. Despite campaigning that included a visit to Statesboro, Nolin lost the May primary to McCracken, who hasn’t campaigned and doesn’t talk to newspapers. But McCracken, now 71 and identified on the state Elections Division website as a freelance journalist involved in historic preservation, also appeared on the ballot in 2010 as a candidate for lieutenant governor. 

Asked if he has ever met McCracken, Allen said he hasn’t.

“No one has seen her,” he said when asked if he was aware of her campaigning.

But McCracken’s votes as well as Allen’s will be counted Tuesday night.

 

Motivated voters

Allen’s bus tour took him from his home in Augusta southward to Douglas and west to Dublin, covering a district that is more than 150 miles long and 90 miles wide. He wrapped up in Statesboro at Paulson Stadium with the Georgia Southern-Appalachian State football game the evening of Oct. 29. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle hosted a tailgate event Allen attended. Several state elected officials, all Republicans, including Sen. Jack Hill, Rep. Jon Burns and Rep. Butch Parrish, dropped by or joined the group for the game, Allen said.

Another purpose of the tour, and of the robocalls, radio interviews and press notices that promoted it, was to motivate voters, Allen started to say.

“Well, we didn’t really have to get them too motivated about this election,” he said. “I’ve never seen so much excitement in my life. I mean, early voting in every county is surpassing everything that’s ever been seen.”

Of course, the big motivator is the presidential race between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. The Statesboro Herald has long since reported Allen’s endorsement of Trump, which hasn’t changed. Allen didn’t actually mention the presidential candidate by name in Wednesday’s interview.

But several of the issues Allen emphasizes track with those advanced by Trump. Allen also mentions policy ideas put forward by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

However, long before anyone thought Trump would be the nominee, Allen advocated repeal of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. He has also talked all along about reducing federal regulation.

Five issues

Allen said he has found five issues of greatest concern to voters.

“Number one on everybody’s list is national security, and that includes securing the border, and that includes building the military of the 21st century,” he said.

The second-ranked issue, of added interest in the district’s rural areas, Allen said, is job creation and the economy.

“We’ve got storefronts closing down,” he said. “You know, small business creation is a about a third of what it was 10 years ago, and if we get the economy growing at 4 or 5 percent, creating 10 to 20 million jobs, there’s going to be a trickle-down effect. You know, a rising tide lifts all boats, and we need that.”

As he points out, annual growth in the U.S. economy is currently around 2 percent. This is seen in quarterly gross domestic product numbers, sometimes higher and often lower, reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis during 2015 and 2016.

“Third is the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and we have a plan, and it’s based on patient-centered care, it’s based on tax incentives to have health care, and then to provide competition for providers across state lines,” Allen said. “The only way you’re going to bring down costs is competition.”

“Then fourth is poverty,” Allen said. “We had a president in 1965 who created the Great Society that said we’ll end poverty as we know it in our lifetimes. Well, today we’ve got 46 million people on government assistance. Just 10 years ago it was half that. The Great Society is not working.”

President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, worked for passage of the Great Society welfare programs.

Republican recognition of poverty as an issue is reflected in “A Better Way for a Confident America,” a slate of ideas developed by the House Republican Conference last fall and promoted by Speaker Ryan.

The proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act, emphasizing incentives rather than subsidies, is also part of the “A Better Way” agenda.

The fifth issue, Allen said, is “constitutional authority.” This too is reflected in the House Republican agenda, but Allen already talked about it in terms of reining in what he says is overreach by regulatory arms such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

 “What we’ve spent 90 percent of our time in the last Congress fighting is overreach from the executive branch, and so we’ve got to maintain our balance of power,” he said.

 

McCracken found

The Statesboro Herald wasn’t the only news organization that had not talked to McCracken. An Oct. 28 Augusta Chronicle headline referred to her as remaining “invisible.” The story quoted her husband, Augusta attorney William McCracken, suggesting that the Chronicle reporter call their home and leave a message.

Earlier this year, the Statesboro Herald called McCracken’s home number and got a machine or voicemail system that did not allow a message to be left. The result was the same with a first attempt Wednesday, but on the second call, a woman answered who confirmed she was the candidate.

When the reporter noted that McCracken hasn’t been seen much and asked if she campaigns, the candidate politely said, “Goodbye,” and hung up the phone.

 

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

 

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