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Broun has well-funded challenger in GOP bid
0622Paul Broun
Paul Broun

On July 17, 2007, Paul Broun pulled off a surprise upset of state Sen. Jim Whitehead in a special election to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Augusta, who had died a few months earlier.

Broun, 61, went to Washington by a razor-thin margin of just 394 votes in an runoff that brought more than 46,000 voters to the polls.

Whitehead had been heavily supported by the state’s Republican political establishment. However, a misstep by Whitehead pitted the district’s two largest cities, Athens and Augusta, against one another.

On July 15, just 363 days after winning his race, Broun is once again in a tough battle to retain his seat in Congress.

The 10th District encompasses the following counties: Towns, Rabun, Habersham, Stephens, Banks, Franklin, Hart, Jackson, Madison, Elbert, Oconee, Clarke, Oglethorpe, Wilkes, Lincoln, Putnam, Morgan, Greene, McDuffie and Columbia.

Barry Fleming, 43, a Republican state representative from Columbia County, has amassed a considerable campaign war chest and is waging a serious challenge to Broun.

Who is leading depends on which of the candidates you ask.

Broun said his polls show him with a double-digit lead over Fleming, who counters that Broun has used "push polls," a campaign tactic where pollsters attempt to influence the outcome through the phrasing of the questions.

While both men are running under the Republican banner, Fleming draws distinctions between himself and Broun.

"Some of the things my opponent is for are so strange that you have to show people what you’re talking about," Fleming said, suggesting that Broun’s positions on some issues are as extreme in the opposite direction as former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a controversial Democrat.

"He is out of step with Republicans in the 10th District. He voted against a bill that would have provided benefits for veterans returning from Iraq. Only two congressmen voted against that and one of them was Paul Broun."

Broun says Fleming is just mudslinging.

"We’re washing the mud off and moving forward," Broun said.

The incumbent congressman said his opponent is the "Bobsey Twin" of state House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram.

"He (Richardson) is trying to anoint (Fleming) and is using a lot of threats and intimidation to try and put him in office," Broun said. "They don’t like that I’m not one of their club members. They want to anoint their boy. I defeated their boy last year and they’re not happy with that."

Broun said he spent the first few months hiring staff and getting acclimated to congress while Fleming was raising money behind the scenes.

"I knew we’d have a competitive race," Broun said.

The race, according to Broun, is not as much a race against Fleming as it is against the Republican establishment in the state. While the Republican members of the Georgia delegation held a fundraiser for Broun in Washington, many of them, including U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, have not endorsed Broun’s candidacy, opting to withhold endorsement until after the primary.

Fleming said that in forums and debates, there are clear differences between himself and Broun.

"People who hear us speak on the issues see that I do a better job of explaining the conservative position," Fleming said. "You’ve got one guy (Broun) who had never held elective office before and comes out with votes and ideas that are really strange. Then, you’ve got another guy who has a decade-long record of implementing change. When they see us in person, they get a distinct difference."

Broun said if he doesn’t win in July, the Democratic party would jump on an opportunity.

"I think there is a high probability that they would, because they would see it as an open seat and pour lots of money into the general election if Barry Fleming were to win ... but he’s not going to," Broun said confidently.

The winner of the July 15 primary will face Democrat Bobby Saxon in November.

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