There is no Democrat in the race, meaning the winner July 22 will be the next congressman.
Barr of Smyrna is a former U.S. Attorney and spent four terms in Washington after being part of the “Contract With America”/Gingrich revolution that took control of the U.S. House in the 1990s.
Loudermilk is a former state Senator from Cartersville who resigned to run for Congress.
Loudermilk was the leading vote-getter in the crowded May 20 primary, besting five other candidates and even nosing past Barr in Cobb.
Yet many Cobb residents are finding it difficult to make up their minds between the two. Unfortunately, that’s not because they find the two extraordinarily appealing, but rather, because of lingering doubts about each of them.
For starters, both seem to excel at self-promotion — even when taking into account that they are politicians. More seriously, both seem to project an aura of ruthlessness when it comes to furthering their political ambitions.
Barry Loudermilk has made surprising inroads among Republicans in the district after having been virtually unknown here just a year ago. Loudermilk fits comfortably in the tea party wing of the party, which is both a help and a hindrance. Tea party voters are among the party’s most motivated members, but the tea party has turned off many Republicans with its penchant for loud but ultimately self-defeating confrontations.
Barr, meanwhile, is very much a “known quantity” to Cobb voters — or, at any rate, as “known” as one can be after having changed parties not once but twice and having had his name inextricably linked with some of the most polarizing issues of the past two decades. Barr was the first in Washington (even before anyone knew of the existence of Monica’s blue dress) to suggest Bill Clinton deserved impeachment. He sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, though he now says there are more important things to worry about than gay marriage. And he has long been one of the country’s most knowledgeable and articulate defenders of the Second Amendment and the right to own firearms.
Barr also was a forceful critic of the Patriot Act and eventually left the Republican Party to run for president as a Libertarian in 2008. Belatedly coming to his senses, he’s now a Republican again.
Loudermilk was part of the inner circle of lawmakers who ran the Georgia Senate during the latter part of his career there. And it stands to reason that if elected to Washington he would quickly establish ties with the tea party wing of the House. Although the TPers lost out on the recent leadership changes, they still comprise a powerful voice in that wing of the Capitol.
Barr, meanwhile, would return to Congress with eight years’ worth of seniority under his belt and also would be on a first-name basis with House Speaker John Boehner. Keep in mind Boehner will be playing a commanding role in House decisions on whether to keep open Dobbins Air Reserve Base, a key employer in Cobb and the 11th. And if Dobbins is shut down, there’s a very strong likelihood that Lockheed Martin (which shares a runway with Dobbins and employs more than 6,000 people) will soon close its plant here.
Meanwhile, it’s troubling Loudermilk has already pledged that if elected, he will vote with many of his fellow tea partiers against the re-election of Boehner as speaker. Loudermilk’s promise strikes us as a case of a candidate choosing ideology and ambition over what’s best for the district he hopes to represent.
There’s also the undeniable fact that if 11th voters select Loudermilk, that Cobb would be without a resident in Congress for the first time since the 1960s. (Sixth District U.S. Rep. Tom Price lives in Roswell and 13th District Rep. David Scott in Atlanta). We’re sure that Loudermilk would do a conscientious job of representing Cobb if elected, but there are undeniable advantages to a community to having one of its own as its representative in Washington. We doubt any Cobb-based congressman would be going out of his way to make an enemy of the House Speaker with the future of Dobbins and Lockheed on the line, for example.
Bob Barr might not be a perfect candidate, but he can be counted on to work unfailingly for what’s best for Cobb County and the 11th District. And that’s why he has our support.