- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

Rep. Bob Barr has accused fellow Georgia Republican Rep. John Linder of resorting to negative "push-polling" in their bitterly fought primary.

"With less than a week to go until the primary election on Tuesday, my opponent has stooped to orchestrating an organized smear campaign against me, our campaign team and, even worse, my family," Mr. Barr wrote in a memo to supporters.

"For example, many of our supporters have reported receiving negative 'push polling' calls designed to quietly and maliciously spread lies about our campaign," the four-term House member said in the memo e-mailed to thousands of voters in the newly redrawn 7th Congressional District.

"I have never authorized or used a push poll and never will," Mr. Linder said in a telephone interview. He accused Mr. Barr of running radio ads falsely accusing Mr. Linder of supporting the "homosexual agenda."

"I have a 98 percent rating with the Christian Coalition and couldn't have earned it if I had supported the gay agenda," Mr. Linder said.

On Tuesday, voters in that heavily Republican district will go to the polls in a Republican primary that will decide which of the two conservative lawmakers will return to Congress next year.

Mr. Barr, who continues to lead Mr. Linder in the latest independent newspaper poll, has been the target of Linder campaign jokes stemming from the accidental firing of an antique handgun at a recent money-raising event for Mr. Barr.

Mr. Barr's campaign aides did not say which accusations against Mr. Barr were made or implied in the push poll, which is a device used in a few political campaigns to plant negative information about a candidate in the guise of a public-opinion poll.

"In their latest case of outrageous and deplorable conduct, Linder operatives disrupted a serious campaign event with a costumed cartoon character, and then tried to embarrass my son with false charges in an effort to hurt me."

Mr. Linder said yesterday that the cartoon character that had been dogging Mr. Barr's campaign appearances was not working for the Linder campaign. "I consider him a bit of a flake and asked him to stop, and he did," Mr. Linder said.

The character, costumed to resemble "Yosemite Sam," toted a 2-foot paper gun and a huge button proclaiming him to be "Bob Barr's Official Gun Safety Trainer."

The character got under the skin of some Barr campaign aides, including Mr. Barr's son, Derek, who was videotaped appearing to jostle "Yosemite Sam" at an event. Mr. Barr said Mr. Linder's campaign distributed the videotape. Mr. Barr held a press conference at which he named his son and said his son was being targeted by Mr. Linder, who denied the accusation.

At the same time, a new independent poll of 400 likely Republican voters, commissioned by the Gwinnett Daily Post and several other newspapers, showed Mr. Barr leading by 45 percent to 42 percent for Mr. Linder, with 13 percent undecided. The poll, however, has an error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Barr campaign officials professed particular pleasure in the poll finding that their man has "a significant lead among the most conservative voters" in the district, who "traditionally are most likely to vote in primary elections."

Mr. Barr encouraged his supporters, saying, "I hope all 7th District voters will recognize just how critical this election is and get out to vote on Tuesday."

A Linder spokesman said, however, that the poll underweighted a key county where Mr. Linder has his greatest strength.

Mr. Barr noted that before serving in Congress, he had been appointed by President Reagan as the U.S. attorney in Atlanta and had prosecuted terrorists and drug dealers and "worked at the CIA to stop international threats against our nation."

"I thought that I'd seen every form of unethical, dishonest and negative conduct imaginable before now," he wrote supporters. "Unfortunately, I was wrong."

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