While the Democratic congressman representing the 12th Congressional District prepares for a November race to retain his seat, the four Republicans vying to oppose him are working hard to make their cases for area voters now.
On Tuesday, voters throughout the region will choose among GOP candidates Rick Allen, Lee Anderson, Wright McLeod and Maria Sheffield to challenge U.S. Rep. John Barrow in this fall’s general election.
The would-be opponents are spending the final days of their campaigns visiting with constituents and reaffirming the ideas they say make them the best choice to represent Georgia.
“I understand the issues. The issues that are facing this country are very complex and are daunting,” said McLeod, an Augusta real estate attorney and former Navy fighter pilot. “I am willing to make the hard calls that will allow this country to return to prosperity.”
McLeod, 48, says he is focused on restoring the economy and creating an atmosphere that produces more jobs, around the region and in Bulloch County.
“Unless this country changes its direction, I don’t think my children, the next generation, will have the same opportunities this generation did. We have to create an environment so that small businesses can succeed — so that young entrepreneurs can have opportunities,” he said. “In Bulloch County, the economic train is the university (Georgia Southern University). I am a big fan of GSU. I understand the mission of GSU and will always fight for GSU. I want to help the university continue on its path to the next level.”
Allen, 60, the owner of an Augusta construction company and former board member of the city’s chamber of commerce, said he is focused on job growth.
“I am a conservative businessman and not a politician. Job creation and growing this economy is the real issue in the 12th District,” he said. “The only way to grow the economy is to deregulate and tax-cut. We have a spending problem in Washington, not a revenue problem. We’ve got to cut spending and balance the budget.”
On the issues, all four candidates want to slash the federal budget, increase domestic oil production, repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and simplify the tax code.
State Rep. Lee Anderson, a Grovetown farmer, is the only Republican contender with experience holding office.
Anderson, 55, has made promises to cut every federal agency's budget by 5 percent, sparing only the Defense Department, and decrease his own congressional salary by 20 percent.
He has served four years in the state House and four years as a Columbia County commissioner.
Dublin attorney Maria Sheffield has previous experience running for a post, finishing as the runner-up from in the 2010 GOP primary race for state insurance commissioner. She is relying heavily on support from tea party groups and other grassroots conservatives.
According to Kathryn Ballou, Sheffield’s campaign manager, the 38-year-old -- who has raised the least amount of money thus far -- is focused on limiting government spending and abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency, which she says supports “job-killing regulations” against farmers and businesses.
In regard to Bulloch County and the surrounding region, “Maria is going to support Georgia Southern and Ogeechee (Technical College) with their needs,” Ballou said. “She is also for deepening the port in Savannah so manufacturers, families and farmers can get their goods to and from the port.”
Whoever wins Tuesday’s primary will benefit from $900,000 the National Republican Congressional Committee has promised for advertising in the general election campaign against Barrow. The winner also stands to benefit from a Republican effort to redraw district lines to their advantage.
GOP-led lawmakers reconfigured the 12th District last year to carve out Savannah, Barrow’s former home and a large portion of his Democratic base.
The four-term congressman, and last white Democrat from the Deep South in the U.S. House, has publicly criticized the redistricting and moved his home — for a second time as a result of new lines — to Augusta, within the newly drawn district, but said he is still confident he can retain the seat.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.