Let's be blunt with this message to Lee Benedict:
When you're in a hole, quit digging.
On Sunday we reviewed his press release in which he fired both barrels at state Rep. Ben Harbin and political consultant Jim Cox.
The unmistakable inference of Benedict's message was that Cox was helping Harbin launder campaign money. Harbin made two $1,000 donations to Barry Fleming, and Benedict's "gotcha!" moment was his charge that Fleming had not disclosed the donations - and blamed Harbin for it.
Harbin and Cox responded that Benedict was factually incorrect: Fleming has, in fact, documented the donations in his Federal Elections Commission filings. I found the disclosures on the FEC Web site and shared it with Benedict.
There is no gray area. Benedict was flat wrong.
After we went to press Friday, Benedict issued his second press release. This should have been the one in which he said, "Oops - sorry. Guess I should have been more careful."
Instead, he dug the hole deeper.
Benedict's rambling response hits bottom with this sentence in the middle of Page 2: "I do apologize for any confusion this may have caused, but would also like to illustrate the fact that the FEC is misleading the public, and Congress should address this matter with due speed in order to avoid future conflicts."
In other words, "I screwed up by conducting poor research and based my entire argument on bad assumptions, but it's not my fault! The FEC site is just too complicated! And Congress oughta do something about it!"
Never have I suggested that a candidate quit a race and just walk away, but here it is: Lee, don't torture us any more. Harbin's ongoing legal troubles provided someone with an opening to run against the veteran incumbent, but that issue only opened the door to a substantive race.
Lee, you clearly are not that someone, and you just slammed that door on your own foot. Please; put yourself out of our misery.
Things were considerably less miserable at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center Saturday, where 10th District U.S. Rep. Paul Broun and his challenger, state Rep. Barry Fleming debated.
It was nice to see that about 200 people showed up to hear the candidates in spite of the beautiful weather outside. Most of them had already made up their minds before they got there, but they generally were polite to their guy's opponent.
Columbia County's Republican Party did a good job of putting on the debate. Brett McGuire, who is running against Lee Anderson for Fleming's old state House seat, would like to see another one.
McGuire Monday challenged Anderson to a face-to-face debate. No word on whether Anderson will take him up on it, but both of them are among the candidates invited Saturday to a breakfast in which all Republican hopefuls will be able to address the audience.
It starts at 9 a.m. at Fatz Cafe. Not sure what the candidates will have to say, but the food is always good and costs just $6. That's worth the trip all by itself.
Broun touts lead
Back to that 10th District race: Just as the dust was settling from the debate, Broun's camp released the results of his third poll of the district's voters.
All candidates' poll results must, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. The information is released only if it makes the candidate look good.
This poll, like the two previous polls by The Tarrance Group, continues to make Broun look very good. Fleming, not so much.
According to the results, 80 percent of likely Republican voters favor Broun, while just 15 percent favor Fleming.
No word on any competing poll results from the Fleming camp.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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