SYLVANIA – While waiting for the meal at the Republican 12th Congressional District Fish Fry, the party’s nominee, Rick Allen, cited a forecast that gives him a better than even chance of unseating U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the Democrat who has held the seat for almost 10 years.
Barrow has fended off a series of Republican challengers at two-year intervals, despite the Republican-controlled state Legislature twice redrawing the district. But after a 54 percent win without a runoff in the five-candidate primary, Allen has what some area GOP leaders say is their party’s best chance to recapture the district since Barrow’s narrow 2006 rematch victory over his Republican predecessor, Max Burns.
“The Washington Post Election Lab made a prediction a couple of weeks ago that we had a 53 percent shot at winning,” Allen said before the fish was served Thursday night. “They upgraded it to a 55 and just recently said we had a 59 percent chance.”
The Election Lab report, which as of Friday gave Allen a 57 percent probability, is not a poll, but a prediction model based on several factors and the results of past elections. The reports can be found through www.washingtonpost.com.
“Momentum is on our side, and we’ve just got to get it across the finish line” Allen said, in a remark similar to those he made later to the dinner crowd.
Another factor Allen draws hope from is fundraising.
“We raised almost $400,000 in four weeks,” he told supporters.
A quarterly report that Allen’s campaign committee posted with the Federal Elections Commission showed the campaign received $402,801 in April, May and June. Much of that came after his May 20 primary victory. Lee Anderson, the 2012 Republican nominee against Barrow, raised $297,361 during the comparable quarter that year.
With the June 30 report, Allen’s total campaign receipts, since Jan. 1, 2013, topped $1.3 million, but this included a $395,000 loan from himself. He had spent most and had $225,567 on hand.
Meanwhile, Barrow received $465,837 in the quarter ending June 30, but then had more than $1.8 million on hand.
“I’m being outspent three-to-one on TV by Barrow right now,” Allen said.
For campaign finance reports, see www.fec.gov.
[BEGIN SUBHEAD] Ads they don’t pay for [END SUBHEAD]
State Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, former Georgia Senate president pro-tem, said, “I think we’ve got a good chance to win it, but there’s so much negative politics out there, and most of it’s not generated by the candidates.”
The candidates are not responsible for some of the attack ads. For example, an ad in which a monkey sits on a woman’s shoulder while she asserts that $820,000 in tax money was spent “studying how monkeys respond to unfairness and how they act while on cocaine,” was paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, not Allen.
But in Thursday’s interview, Allen mentioned “monkeys on cocaine” in criticizing Barrow’s support of the 2009 economic stimulus bill.
Likewise, Barrow did not pay for a TV ad attacking Allen, who has never served in government, for alleged “insider deals, blown budgets, higher taxes.” The ad and airtime were purchased by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The deals mentioned in the ad were local government contracts that Allen’s business, Augusta-based construction firm R.W. Allen LLC, landed on public bids to build projects such as schools and health care facilities. Factcheck.org, which is supported by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, investigated the ad’s claims and reported that five of R.W. Allen LLC’s projects, totaling less than 1 percent of the value of all the company’s work, had gone over budget in 18 years.
Factcheck.org also observed that the Democrats’ campaign committee cited no evidence for the “insider deals” claim but had based this on the company’s being awarded one contract for which it was not the lowest bidder.
Allen’s company does not do federal projects, he said. The “government” projects the ad refers to are at least partly funded by local sales taxes directly approved by voters. With these and private contracts, Allen observed, his business, which he has operated for 37 years, creates jobs.
“This election is about the economy and jobs and the deficit these people have run up for the last 10 years that John Barrow has been in office, and they are criticizing the very thing that people have told us in the 12th District that we’ve got to fix,” Allen told the audience. “How sad is that? How hypocritical is that?”
Allen’s wife, Robin Allen, introduced him, then literally stood beside him while he made his remarks, saying she was there to remind him to stop talking. They have been married 41 years.
Also interviewed at the event, Lawton Sack, Bulloch County Republican Party chairman and former chairman for the party’s 12th District organization, said he is encouraged by Allen’s campaign. He also noted the Washington Post projection, as well as Allen’s fundraising in comparison to previous nominees.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback for Rick,” Sack said. “He’s been able to stand strong financially, which is a good change, being able to put up TV ads throughout the district.”
[BEGIN SUBHEAD] 17th Annual Fish Fry [END SUBHEAD]
Citing a prior commitment, David Perdue, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, did not attend the fish fry, but his wife, Bonnie Perdue, attended and spoke on his behalf.
“David is really determined to go to Washington to take a stand,” she said. “He’s going to fight to grow the economy.”
Perdue faces Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in the Nov. 4 election to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, first elected to that office in 2010, led in singing the national anthem and later made a speech. He cited improvements in his department’s accounting and its success in making all its licensing and reporting functions available online.
Black has a Democratic challenger, Christopher Irvin, grandson of Tommy Irvin, agriculture commissioner from 1969 through 2010.
The 17th Annual 12th District Fish Fry was held at the Pathway Center, used for church and interdenominational Christian meetings and owned by Screven County Republican Party Chairman Osal Evans. Two bands played on the outdoor stage while the fish and hushpuppies were frying in the cook shed. One of the groups, Larry Gillis and his Bluegrass Band, later performed “Are You Proud of America?” inside the hall.
Statesboro First Baptist Church Pastor Dr. John Waters, one of several ministers on the program, delivered a prayer for the nation. Several of the political speakers included faith-based statements in their remarks.
“The Lord delivers,” Allen said in a reference to his primary victory.
More than 150 people attended, but he crowd was sparser than in 2013, when about 300 heard from Allen and other contenders for the congressional nomination.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.