Lee Anderson Doesn’t Want To Debate John Barrow

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Lee Anderson is now the GOP’s nominee in the 12th Congressional district.  The Columbia County farmer and state Representative defeated Augusta businessman in a tight runoff race last month by 159 votes.  A recount didn’t change the outcome, and Anderson has won the right to face incumbent Congressman John Barrow.

Barrow, a Democrat, has served the 12th district since 2005.  As such, he has had a certain platform given to him by the voters of eastern Georgia for the past eight years.  Anderson, as a newly minted nominee, asserts that he doesn’t care to share the platform of a debate with Barrow until certain conditions are met.

Anderson’s campaign released a press release on Wednesday saying in part “Lee Anderson will consider sharing the stage with John Barrow once he stands in front of a local television camera and confesses his politically disastrous secret – he’s voting for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.

“Until that confession, John Barrow is just another professional politician that’s incapable of telling the truth to voters in Georgia’s 12th and doesn’t deserve a platform to further promote his empty campaign promises and tired political rhetoric.”

That’s a unique position for someone who also refused to share the debate platform with his GOP challenger during the runoff election.  Anderson was represented by an “empty podium” at the Atlanta Press Club debate broadcast on Georgia Public Television.  He refused other debates.

Debates have not been Anderson’s strong suit.  The challenge issued from his campaign serves to both insulate him from the possibility of attempting to debate a skilled politician and attorney who is more accustomed to the practice, while reminding voters that even a centrist Democrat is still a Democrat.

A poll released this week by Anderson’s campaign reveals the potential weakness of this strategy and his campaign in general.  Anderson’s own pollster indicates that he is leading incumbent Barrow 44-43 with 13 percent of the voters undecided.

The weakness is apparent because the same poll shows Republican nominee Mitt Romney leading President Obama among the same voters by 10 additional points, with 53% of the vote.  10% of those polled who know they want to vote for the Republican nominee for President but either don’t want to vote for their Republican nominee for Congress or haven’t yet decided.

The 12th District was redrawn during last year’s reapportionment to significantly favor a Republican.  Yet despite the fact that almost half of the voters in the 12th are new to John Barrow and overwhelmingly favor a Republican for present, they do not yet favor a the Republican for Congress.

Anderson’s press release must be viewed as an unwise stunt and an insult to the political process.  With the number of new voters in the 12th district and an even larger number presumably unfamiliar with Anderson, a debate (or debates) between the two candidates is something voters should be able to expect.

Debates are also something strong challengers to incumbents usually demand, not create political constructs in order to avoid.  Yet Anderson revealed during his primary run that debates are not his strongest suit, and prefers one on one campaigning.  The strategy was evident when he chose to run out the clock on Allen rather than joining for a one on one faceoff.

Discussion among Republican insiders indicates they are underwhelmed with the poll, as well as the campaign’s decision to make it public.  They further question the debate strategy noting you can hide during a three week runoff, but it’s a lot more difficult during the months long general election.

While Barrow has the advantage of incumbency, Anderson has the partisan advantage of the base voters within the newly drawn district.  Yesterday’s press release indicates that Anderson may attempt to sit on that lead and rely on a Republican dominated presidential turnout to drive him to victory.  It’s a unique strategy for a challenger.  It will be interesting to watch the poll numbers and see how well it holds up.



  1. ricstewart says:

    To borrow and alter a line from Bob Hope, “asking Anderson why he doesn’t want to debate again is like asking Rosemary why she doesn’t want to have another baby.”

  2. ricstewart says:

    Doesn’t a debate seem like the ideal opportunity to ask Barrow about his support of President Obama?

    It’s not like THAT many voters watch the debates anyway. Most of the people who watch debates probably already have their minds made up. (Exhibit A: the fact that Anderson won the primary)

    To be fair, Barrow did the same thing in the 2010 APC debates against Regina Thomas, and if I remember correctly, Ray McKinney. Barrow also dodged several other debates throughout the district that year with lame excuses that he had to be in Washington for important votes, even though there were no votes scheduled on the date for which he made this excuse.

  3. drjay says:

    lee’s mustache however is itching for a chance to take on barrow…maybe he could offer an alternate forum with a higher comfort level for him, like a tractor race or something…

  4. Trey A. says:

    The ‘R’ by Anderson’s name should protect him in the safely Republican 12th. It’s tough to beat an ‘R’ in Georgia these days, even when those of us who follow the races are more than happy to split our tickets in pursuit of good government (see: 2010 statewide wins by Casey Cagle and Tim Echols).

  5. eburke says:

    The Republicans in the 12th have put up the weakest of the four potential challengers to John Barrow. Anderson’s best bet is to not debate lest he be exposed as unqualified for the office. Any of the other candidates would have done well to debate Barrow. Having a picture of a tractor in your campaign signs does not qualify you to run a farm, much less be part of the assembly that runs a nation.

    Barrow has not made enemy’s in the district. His voting record is moderate to conservative. And his constituent relations staff does an outstanding job tending to the concerns of folks back home.

    The right candidate might have beaten John Barrow this time, but not Lee Anderson.

  6. novicegirl says:

    Might be the first documented instance, in the history of mankind, of a challenger refusing to debate an incumbent.

  7. Harry says:

    Not a resident of the 12th – so I’m not directly involved – but Anderson’s lack of intellectual vigor as illustrated by his unwillingness to debate an incumbent in what should be a safe district together with an apparent disinterest to at least expound upon his vision of a national policy agenda, leads me to propose that reform-minded (ie, non business as usual) Republicans should sit out this election and await a better opportunity in a couple of years. That would be the best outcome in the long run. Otherwise the man becomes an entrenched do-nothing incumbent. We need savvy people in Congress.

    • IndyInjun says:

      Harry, lately you have impressed the heck out of me. You have been absolutely nailing it. Lee Anderson is the sum of all fears for those wanting to preserve the GOP and the delight of long suffering Indies, Paulians, fiscal conservatives, and constitutionalists who just want the party put out of its misery.

      Maybe the party loyalists will feel, see, and express the danger.

      I am not betting on it.

        • IndyInjun says:

          Yes, there is a chance you are right. Decision time – does just 2 months of having fun at the GOP’s expense and doing the right thing by the people trump the satisfaction of greater damage to the GOP and fun we will have for 2 years and 2 months?

          I am intrigued by the possibilities, after some of us over this way drove Anderson’s margin from a widely expected 5% victory to a mere 0.5%. Had we media penetration in Vidalia, Statesboro, Springfield, Douglas, and Dublin, Lee would have been DONE.

          GOP voters in Augusta flipped over to vote against a black Dem sheriff candidate and wound up with a double barrelled disaster.

          I am now a Harry fan………the old Indy would NEVER have typed that.

          I see it your way. The interests of the GOP are best served by cutting off funds to Anderson and letting Barrow win. However, Obamaphobia is going to be hard for Barrow to overcome.

  8. jackson says:

    I’m not going to say Lee Anderson is good or not good at debates. But your political assessment of why he will or will not debate is why people don’t pay you for political advice, as much as you want to be seen as a sophisticated political operative.

    First of all, let’s not pretend that these “debates” are going to reveal any new information or positions that aren’t already available.

    Second, let’s not pretend there are a large number of actual undecided, concerned voters attending or following these debates. Take me to a political debate for a local or congressional candidate that isn’t already stacked with people that have already decided, and I’ll take you to some nice ocean front property in Nebraska.

    Let’s also set the record straight on Anderson “debating” his opponent in the primary. Anderson attended over 20 public forums in the primary. Plenty of opportunity for all these “undecided” voters to show up, meet the candidates, and make a decision – if they were making their decision on a debate. His decision not to “debate” Allen in the runoff was his decision. And the reality is, it proved that either that the voters didn’t care or that they felt they had the information they needed to vote for him.

    I’m not sure why you didn’t include Barrows absolute REFUSAL to debate his last opponent in either the general elections (Ray McKinney) or in the previous primary (Regina Thomas) in your write up. The fact that he somehow is really concerned about debates is hypocritical at best. The fact that you didn’t even know this before writing this article is also concerning.

    Moreover Charlie, it just proves that “debates” only serve a purpose for either campaign — if they want them to serve a purpose. For Lee, maybe it’s exposing Barrows fervent support of Obama and the baggage that comes with that. For John, maybe it’s exposing that Anderson isn’t a good public speaker and drawing him into making a regrettable comment. Regardless, they are both utilizig the situation for political advantage and have not for some altruistic purpose. The fact that you are writing that it’s some sort of indictment on Anderson for not participating is either extremely naive or intellectually dishonest.

    • Charlie says:

      People don’t pay me for political advice because it’s not the business I’m in. It’s nice that you believe getting someone to pay you for political advice is your benchmark of worth. Because win or lose, when you get people to pay you for this advice the checks still clear.

      Quite a few people have paid Anderson’s consultant for political advice. They’re names are Jim Whitehead, Mike Evans, and Martha Zoller. All used to be called “front runner”.

      And you want to call ME the one who’s intelectually dishonest?

  9. IndyInjun says:

    Lee doesn’t want to be confronted over TSPLOST or the Georgia Power Bill. Richmond County and Columbia County voters were schooled on these things, voting against Lee in the run-off.He probably doesn’t really want the Deal campaign to be mentioned either, because in the CSRA counties, Deal was beaten nearly 2:1. Some mysterious force is causing folks there to wise up. IF it ever strikes statewide, the corrupt GOP state establishment is in real trouble. Charlie is no friend of mine, but the peach punditeers and this site have done yeoman’s work in advancing reform. We can hope that one day soon there is no place for the rotten ones to run and hide. Lee made war on the middle class. It is clear. “Winning” that seat will be the worst thing personally to ever happen to Lee Anderson.

    Barrow voted for stimulus, NDAA, and is a lousy Democrat, but the man had the guts to call me back and talk to me 45 minutes once when he was not even my Congressman. I supported Anderson for Georgia house to the MAX, but he would not call me back before the Georgia Power vote because he knew I was against it. When I called him about tax reform, he was utterly CLUELESS about the issues and referred me to a lobbyist.

    The whole phalanx of Columbia County GOP elected officials is for Anderson, but he did not carry the county, just as they were for Deal (who lost Columbia County 39% to 61%). Folks in Columbia County soundly gave TSPLOST a thrashing too. The truth has a way of turning things around, when it reaches the right channels.

    Anderson was on a GOP-centric radio show that almost always takes calls yesterday morning. No calls were allowed. The man cannot stand scrutiny.

  10. jackson says:

    So, we should vote for Barrow because he calls you back and Anderson is a corrupt scumbag because he won’t call you back? Are you kidding?

    I hate to break it to you, but TSPLOST PASSED in most of the district. Plus, Rick Allen spent plenty of money letting people know that Anderson supported a vote on TSPLOST. If consevative Republicans didn’t buy his misleading TSPLOST ads, I doubt regular voters will, especially since most of them voted to pass it.

    Moreover, Barrow and the democrats will pour plenty of money into ads “scrutinizing” Anderson, so your comments that Anderson believe he can avoid scrutiny are misinformed.

    That said, the rest of you pointless tirade is just that. I have to be honest, if I had a constituent all over the place like you and that couldn’t he his facts straight, I’d be wary of calling you back too.

  11. IndyInjun says:

    Your reading comprehension is even less than Lee’s. I posted what happened in Richmond and Columbia Counties. We private citizens impacted those elections with social media and talk radio. We did not get penetration in the other cities and towns. Hearing citizens talk of these things carrys a lot more impact.

    If we really put our hearts and minds into it we will get penetration and Lee Anderson will be ruined, win or lose.

    Every single day the vise tightens on the middle class that Lee Anderson hurt with his votes. Every day his politics grow more toxic. Barrow is past his sell-by date. Only a truly pathetic candidate will spare him. The GOP has delivered that candidate.

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