THE ELECTION FOR GEORGIA’S 7TH DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL SEAT will be decided this year, not in November but in August. It’s a primary race that pits two incumbent Republicans against each other. The first is a typical Congressman: unknown to most Americans including many in his district. The other is an outspoken fighter: a champion for gun rights, civil liberties, criminal justice, and many other conservative causes. It is a race between Congressman John Linder, a Congressman since 1992, and Congressman Bob Barr, who is finishing his fourth term in the House of Representatives. The primary election, which determines the next Congressman from this district, is August 20.
In 1994 Barr, then a U.S. Attorney, decided to run against the Democratic incumbent Congressman in Georgia’s 7th District. The incumbent, Buddy Darden, had been elected after the untimely death of the most conservative Democrat in the U.S. House, Larry McDonald. Darden, a product of the Georgia Democratic machine run by Speaker Tom Murphy, easily won the district that was very conservative, but mostly Democratic.
Barr, a United States Attorney, had tried once before for public office when he ran in a losing primary for the 1992 Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. He believed he could beat Darden since the district had been growing in Republican strength and Darden had become more and more liberal. Yet, when I met Barr in the spring of 1994, Darden still looked formidable.
Then came the Clinton push for banning so-called assault weapons in the spring and summer of 1994. Every Democratic vote was needed to pass the bill in the House of Representatives and Bill Clinton twisted every arm he could find. One of those arms belonged to Buddy Darden and he dutifully voted for the gun ban. The news of that vote traveled faster, through the Georgia’s 7th District, than Sherman had marched through Atlanta. Darden had done the unpardonable– voted for gun control—uniting gun owners and conservatives in the 7th, giving a close victory to Barr.
Bob Barr arrived with the huge class of 1994 Republicans who took over the Congress electing Newt Gingrich Majority Leader. He got a seat on the always-controversial House Judiciary Committee and immediately became the gun owners’ champion. He was not afraid of bucking his Republican colleagues, whether it was the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Henry Hyde or Majority Leader Newt Gingrich. While he obviously took relish in confronting the obnoxious Chuck Schumer during Judiciary Committee meetings and hearings, Schumer in 1995 told the New York Times, "Bob Barr is smart, relentless and very extreme."
It was Bob Barr who hounded the Clinton administration calling for the impeachment of both Bill Clinton and Al Gore even before Monica Lewinsky became a household name. It was Bob Barr who understood the problems that would surface with the Lautenberg amendment and tried to change that law so it would not be retroactive. It was Bob Barr who has called and still calls attention to the perils inherent in supporting the destruction of civil liberties by an over-reaching government.
Nadine Strossen, the President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was interviewed on a local Washington D.C. radio program this past week and was surprisingly effusive in her comments about Congressman Barr. She applauded his outspoken criticism of the USA Patriot Act that passed Congress in the wake of September 11; and she hailed his ongoing efforts to assure that privacy of the individual is paramount over the convenience of the state.
Politics do make strange bedfellows. Although many may be astonished, Barr, who is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association, is genuinely concerned with civil liberties issues that are supported both by the ACLU and the National Rifle Association (NRA). NRA President Charlton Heston went to Georgia and spent a weekend in the District campaigning and fund-raising for Bob Barr’s election.
The race for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in 2002 is crucial to those who are passionate about Second Amendment issues, abortion, civil liberties, a strong military, and personal freedom. It’s unfortunate that Georgia’s redistricting put two Republicans vying for one Congressional seat. In this race there is more than a dime’s worth of difference between the candidates. One is a typical Congressman, while the other, Bob Barr, is a fighter for individual rights and the candidate that every liberal in this country would like to see defeated. It could be the most important race for gun owners, civil libertarians, and conservatives this year.