U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, who won Georgia's 12th Congressional District seat for the Republican Party less than two years ago, kicked off his re-election campaign this week with a bus tour of the district's 19 counties.
He spent a big part of Thursday in Statesboro. After attending a Downtown Rotary Club meeting that began at 7 a.m. at RJ's Grill, Allen went to the Nessmith-Lane Conference Center at Georgia Southern University, where he hosted a Youth Leadership Conference for high school students.
That wasn't a campaign event, but he was definitely politicking with the breakfast crowd at RJ's after the Rotary meeting.
"Obviously, we've got a lot of work left to do," Allen said when asked why he wants to remain in Congress. "You know, I've been there 14 months. Just two years ago, I'm out here working just like everybody else under these horrible regulations, this horrible tax policy we've got, and, you know, those things have got to be corrected."
Almost 40 years ago, Allen, now 64, founded R.W. Allen & Associates, the Augusta-based construction firm. During the youth summit, he referred to having turned his company over to employees when he decided to run for Congress.
Allen has a challenger, Eugene Yu, within the Republic Party in the May 24 primary, the winner of which will face a Democrat in the Nov. 8 general election. The Democratic Party's 12th District candidates on the state Elections Division list after the close of qualifying Friday were Joyce Nolin and Tricia Carpenter McCracken. All four candidates are from the Augusta area.
For Congress to accomplish anything has been difficult during his first 14 months, Allen said. Although Republicans have a substantial majority in the House, where he serves, the majority they won in the Senate in 2014 amounts to 54 of the 100 voting senators. For most measures to pass under Senate rules, 60 votes are required, and with a Democrat, President Barack Obama, wielding veto power, legislation that has support of Republicans alone usually goes nowhere.
"Obviously, with divided government, it's tough to not only get agreement in the House, but where we've been able to agree there and send it to the Senate, they've been able to block it and keep it from going to the president's desk," Allen said in Thursday's interview.
"We know that the American people are not happy with the direction of the country," he said. "You're seeing that in the electorate, 70 percent are not happy, and they don't blame it all on one group or another. ... But I can tell you they're sick and tired of what's going on."
Allen's platform, he said, remains the same as in 2014.
"My platform was, the only way we're going to get out of this mess is to grow jobs, grow the economy, and then we can reduce the size and scope of this government," Allen said. "As far as growing jobs and growing the economy, frankly, that is a bipartisan issue. You hear that a lot on the other side. We have a difference of opinion on how to go about that, obviously."
As a business person, he said, he believes that a reduced regulatory environment and tax reform are needed and that the education system has to provide a skilled workforce.
Backed new education act
One substantial piece of legislation that Congress did pass, by bipartisan majorities large enough to have been veto-proof, and which President Obama did sign into law, was the 2015 version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Also known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new package of education programs and rules replaced the old version known as No Child Left Behind.
"What we've been able to do is return control of education to the local boards of education and to the states. ...," Allen said. "Now we have repealed No Child Left Behind. We have removed the threat of the president imposing Common Core on the states, and we're block-granting the funds to the states and letting the states decide how they're going to comply."
Asked if many of the states aren't in fact still using the Common Core State Standards, Allen said he had not talked to State School Superintendent Richard Woods about Georgia's approach. Georgia renamed its standards, but they remain much like those in Common Core, which was never made a federal program.
"My job was to get the federal government out of their way," Allen said. "We've done that, we've achieved that, and for some reason the American people still don't know it. But that was a big deal."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.