Rep. Jim Marshall split with most Democrats in the House and voted against the national health care reform legislation this year. A four-term congressman, he has joined Republican House members in supporting a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And he is a decorated Army veteran who served in Vietnam.
All of these things should help the Democrat appeal to voters in conservative South and Middle Georgia’s 8th Congressional District, which went for Republican John McCain for president in 2008.
But the three Republicans competing in the July 20 GOP primary for Marshall’s seat say he has cast votes that link him to a liberal agenda. First, they point out, Marshall voted to make Democrat Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House in 2007. Marshall also voted for the $787 billion federal economic stimulus program, which some critics say is wasteful.
“He has proven he is not capable of stopping any of the liberal agenda,” said state Rep. Austin Scott, of Ashburn, who is competing against Ken DeLoach, a school administrator, and Diane Vann, a former nurse, in the GOP primary.
Marshall, who calls himself a centrist, said he wasn’t happy with the structure of the stimulus bill. But he noted that it includes tax breaks and increased Medicaid funding. And he said attempting to address “the collapse of the economy was the right thing to do.”
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Regarding his vote for Pelosi, Marshall said he originally supported Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for speaker in 2007 but ultimately voted for Pelosi after it was clear she had enough votes for the job.
“It would have made absolutely no sense for me to stand up there and stick my thumb in her eye by voting no or voting present,” Marshall said. “It would damage my ability to get things done for my district and my country, given that the outcome of the election was a foregone conclusion.”
Marshall and Scott disagree on other things as well. Marshall, for example, voted for the Democrat-led financial reform legislation last month. He said it has features that “will rein in some of the reckless behavior that got us into this financial crisis and this consequent recession.” Scott is critical of the legislation, saying it would kill jobs, raise taxes and fail to deal with some of the organizations that caused the financial meltdown.
Marshall also commented on how Scott withdrew from Georgia’s gubernatorial race in April to run for Congress.
“Seems like he is just looking for a political job,” Marshall said. “Probably a good idea for a fellow with his background is to get out in the real world and do some real-world things on his own two feet and find out who he is and what he really believes in and develop a career, a job, a focus. That’s probably what Austin needs to do now -- not more politics.”
Scott, who owns an insurance agency in Tifton and has served in the state Legislature for 14 years, said he was proud of his gubernatorial campaign, which included a 1,068-mile walk across Georgia. He said during that walk, he "was struck by the frustration, anger and fear felt by Georgians everywhere toward Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. I came to realize the best possible way for me to serve my fellow Georgians is to earn their vote for Congress, go to Washington, and do the job that Jim Marshall refuses to do: put an end to the liberal, destructive policies that are destroying our children’s future."
Whoever wins the Nov. 2 general election will represent a district that includes Macon and parts of Newton, Baldwin and Worth counties and all of 18 others as far south as Colquitt County. As of March 31, Marshall had more campaign cash on hand than all of the Republican candidates in the race combined at $850,189, federal records show.
Meanwhile, Scott’s opponents in the GOP primary are making their first bids for public office.
DeLoach, of Warner Robins, is a Church of God minister and a teacher and administrator at a Bibb County Christian school. Like Marshall and Scott, DeLoach opposes the national health care legislation. He said he wants to streamline the federal government. He also said education is a “concern of the states and not the federal government.” The nation, he added, could do without the federal Education Department.
“People are frustrated with what is going on in Washington, D.C.,” DeLoach said. “They feel like they are not being listened to. I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. I believe that Washington has lost the voice of the people and as an everyday American -- that’s what I am -- I am a voice of the people.”
Vann supports the Equal Rights Amendment and term limits for Congress. She said she voted for Marshall in 2004. She also said she voted for Obama for president in the 2008 Democratic primary but then cast her ballot for McCain in that year’s general election. This, she said, will be her one and only run for public office.
“I am using my own savings to fund it,” she said. “I am not taking contributions because I want them to go to whomever wins our primary. ... It is a one-time thing. I don’t intend to run for dog catcher or anything else after this.”