Six candidates ran in the Republican primary for the District 11 seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta).
Of the 57,009 voters, Loudermilk came in first with 20,862 votes, or 37 percent, followed by Barr with 14,704, or 26 percent, state Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead) with 8,448, or 15 percent, and Tricia Pridemore with 9,745, or 17 percent. Trailing behind them were Larry Mrozinski with 4 percent and Allan Levene with 2 percent.
With no Democrat in the race, the July 22 runoff is expected to determine the election.
“The important thing in this congressional race,” Barr said, “is whether or not the people of Cobb County and the people of the 11th District are going to have somebody represent them in the Congress who actually has the knowledge, the skill set, the experience working on those issues in that arena which is the Congress — not the Gold Dome, the Gold Dome doesn’t teach you anything about how to get things done in the Congress — or whether they want a neophyte up there who basically is just going to go up and by all accounts, by all analyses, vote no on everything.”
Barr, who served in the U.S. House from 1995 to 2003, claims Loudermilk has already alienated the Republican leadership, an action he called strange.
“Do we want somebody in the Congress representing the 11th District, and this applies especially to Cobb County, which if I’m not back in the Congress will be the first time in decades, at least three decades, that Cobb County has not had somebody from Cobb representing them in the House of Representatives,” Barr said. “Do the people want somebody that actually has a track record and the experience on the issues that matter to the district and to Cobb County to once again move those issues forward, or do they want to take a shot in the dark and send somebody up there with no experience in that arena, and who’s already basically told people I’m just going to be on my own up there. In other words, somebody that won’t get anything done.”
Fighting a possible base closure
The stakes are high with Dobbins Air Reserve Base and Lockheed Martin at risk from a potential base closure in the near future, Barr said.
To avoid a base closure, Lockheed needs to keep as many jobs filled at the plant as possible.
That is achieved by having a strong Georgia delegation in Congress, Barr said. But U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) left his seat to run for Senate, as did U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) and Paul Broun (R-Athens).
“So we’re going to have a very young delegation with no senior members on key committees up there,” Barr said. “That’s why it’s so important in my view that I be back up there. But the danger to Lockheed and to Dobbins is not just the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which could crop up next year or the year after,” he said.
The threat is also from the administration’s “constant nibbling away” at the defense budget.
“The danger to the F-35 program that’s always there, or to the continuation of the C-130 program and the next model of C-130 and some of the renovation work that Lockheed is involved in. There are constant threats to that, and we need to make sure that we always remain ahead of the power curve rather than behind it there,” he said.
One of the ways to remain off the chopping block is by making as much use of the base as possible, whether it’s bringing in such state agencies as emergency management to fill empty space or making use of the old Army building, Barr suggested.
Sue Everhart of east Cobb, former chairwoman of the Georgia Republican Party, said one of the reasons she’s endorsed Barr is because he understands the importance of Lockheed to Cobb’s economy.
“If Lockheed goes and we were to lose the contracts and they pulled up and moved to California, it would take, I believe, Cobb County 30 years to recover, even with the business we have, because the vast majority of blue collar workers work at Lockheed in Cobb County and they make good money,” Everhart said.
Creating a power vacuum in the Middle East
Barr said he’s never been an advocate of nation building, noting it didn’t work in the ancient world, colonial world or post-World War I era, where Britain carved up the Middle East into artificial boundaries that have largely caused the problems there today.
The worst thing that could be done in Iraq was to create a power vacuum, which Barr says is exactly what happened when the U.S. withdrew its forces from that country.
“You don’t even have to have lived over there in that part of the world to know that the worst thing you can create or give rise to, anywhere, but particularly in that part of the world, it is so volatile and so potentially violent, is a vacuum,” Barr said.
That country is now in chaos, he said.
“That being the case, I don’t think it would be responsible as Barry would do to just wash our hands of it and say, ‘Oh, we don’t have a clear and present danger’ is I think the word that he used,” Barr said. “It would be interesting to see if you don’t think there’s a clear and present danger with what’s happening in Iraq, given the oil in that part of the world, given Israel’s security that’s going to be affected by this, given the fact that you would then have literal chaos, violent chaos in a country in which we have the largest embassy anywhere in the world, and other factors, I’d like to hear Barry: What is your definition of a clear and present danger?”
Barr believes the U.S. has a national security interest in Iraq and while he doesn’t think that means sending “a bunch of troops” back in, providing the support and influence through intelligence and perhaps drones is needed.
“We can’t fill that vacuum certainly that we helped create, but we can help contain it right now, and that’s particularly important given what’s happening in Syria,” Barr said. “We made I think some serious blunders there in providing arms to groups that we really didn’t seem to have an understanding of who they were, what we would do with them. They’re now finding their way into the ISIS camps. This is a very serious situation over there and to just step back and say, ‘Oh, I don’t see a clear and present danger’ or ‘We ought not to be doing something’ betrays either a lack of knowledge of what’s going on over there or a very naive sort of Ron Paulian view of the world.”
Voters should decide BRT
Turning to county Chairman Tim Lee’s dream for a bus rapid transit line, which would need hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to finance, Barr said it’s a question the voters of Cobb County should decide.
“Based on my past experience having looked at some of these issues when I was in the House before, and questions came up about federal funds for bus rapid transit, my conclusion was that in very, very, very rare instances is it a wise investment of taxpayer money,” Barr said.
The former congressman said he can’t recall any such transit program that’s made economic sense.
“Now, it might make some of the environmental groups happy out there, and certainly those companies that are involved in the equipment and so forth, but from a financial and a taxpayer standpoint I think people are rightfully skeptical of that,” he said.
Barr said he hasn’t read the studies for Lee’s proposal and is willing to review them.
“But again, it’s the taxpayers’ money, and I am a taxpayer certainly as all of us are here. But to me, that would be the most important factor: Do the voters, do the citizens want to see their money, whether it’s money they provide through taxes to state or local government or the federal government (pay for the project)?” Barr asked.
Barr, 65, has two sons, and his wife, Jeri Barr, also has two children. The couple has eight grandchildren and lives in Smyrna.
Serving as Barr’s campaign manager is his son Derek Barr, a Pope High School Class of 2000 graduate who received a law degree from John Marshall Law School.