- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

Reps. Bob Barr and John Linder will know by nightfall on Aug. 20 which one of them will not return to Congress next year.

The two conservatives are running against each other for the Republican nomination in Georgia's newly drawn 7th Congressional District. The district is heavily Republican, so the winner of the primary is all but assured re-election to the House. The loser will look for other work.

Mr. Linder, a five-term incumbent, thinks Democrats will help him keep his job.

"We get Democrats calling to ask what to do to vote on the Republican ballot," the current 11th District representative said. "There is going to be some Democratic vote, and it's going to be for me. No Democrat would vote for Bob Barr."

Voters do not register by party in Georgia, and the Aug. 20 primary is open to all voters. With attorney Mike Berlon running uncontested for the Democratic nomination and no contested Democratic primary for governor or U.S. senator, Mr. Linder expects many Democrats to cross over and vote for him in the Republican primary

Barr pollster Whitt Ayers predicted, however, that turnout for the Republican primary will consist of "very few Democrats and some independents, but the vast majority will be Republicans, and they will be the type of Republicans Bob Barr excels at turning out."

Both men have nearly identical, and strongly conservative, voting records.

But Mr. Barr is nationally known as the first lawmaker to call for the impeachment of Bill Clinton. A former federal prosecutor appointed by President Reagan, Mr. Barr has occasionally clashed with his party's leadership voting, for example, against giving communist China permanent trade advantages.

Linder campaign manager Bo Harmon says his candidate "is lower-keyed and builds a consensus. Bob Barr positions himself as a spokesman for conservative causes."

Mr. Barr, a four-term incumbent, says Mr. Linder is "Washington-oriented his solution to a problem is to call for a study."

Once a protege of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mr. Linder has received endorsements from some leading House Republicans, including California Rep. David Dreier, the House Rules Committee chairman; Ohio Rep. John A. Boehner, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; and California Rep. Bill Thomas, House Ways and Means Committee chairman.

He's also endorsed by former House members associated with Mr. Gingrich, including Vin Weber of Minnesota and Bob Walker of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Barr is endorsed by revered figures in his party and in the conservative movement, including Reagan administration Attorney General Edwin Meese III, former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly. Mr. Barr's backers include both economic conservatives like Americans for Tax Reform Chairman Grover Norquist and social conservatives like the Rev. Lou Sheldon, who heads the California-based Traditional Values Coalition.

Mr. Barr's high profile has won him support from the likes of National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, but it has also driven up his negative ratings with voters. Even his pollster, Mr. Ayers, acknowledges Mr. Barr has "higher negatives than Linder, but they're still in the teens and are very low compared to his favorable rating."

Mr. Linder said internal polling shows that 80 percent of voters view him positively and only 5 percent negatively.

Mr. Barr said that the issue in the primary is leadership and that Mr. Linder "has been in Congress 10 years and has only two bills passed with his name on them. Contrast that with the way I moved impeachment forward. I introduced [an impeachment inquiry] in November of 1997, based on corruption in the Clinton administration, not on Monica Lewinsky."

"Linder eventually voted for impeachment," Mr. Barr said. "But the difference in approach is that I worked at the grass-roots level to mobilize popular support for the impeachment and forced the issue to the forefront, so the leadership in Washington could not ignore it."

For the primary, Mr. Barr's campaign has raised $2.4 million mainly through a large number of small donations solicited by direct mail from conservative activists throughout the country while Mr. Linder's campaign has raised $910,663.

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