Like our brethren at The Augusta Chronicle, The News-Times generally does not endorse candidates in a partisan primary when there is general election opposition.
But let's be honest: Columbia County has the largest block of votes in the 10th Congressional District, and most of those voters are going to support the Republican nominee this fall.
Our county also is the home of the best candidate in this race, though at this stage you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes Barry Fleming will win.
If he loses, it would be a shame - but he has no one to blame but his own campaign.
Jim Whitehead lost to Paul Broun last year by running a nice-guy race. Fleming has taken the opposite route. Rather than introducing himself to voters, he came out swinging at the incumbent. That allowed Broun to portray himself as the picked-on underdog even as his campaign touted his poll-driven, front-runner status.
What Broun's polls really measure is cynicism. Only in an era in which Congress has such dismal ratings could there be support for an elected official who has accomplished virtually nothing - and who shows no prospects for future success.
Broun has built a following solely on his willingness to swim against the tide. Yet at some point even the most cynical voters are going to ask: What, exactly, are you doing for us?
For example, Broun rightly has disavowed "earmarks" in appropriations bills. But such a unilateral stance has value only as the first step toward fixing a corrupt system. Congress is still wasting the money; the 10th District just isn't getting any of it.
And it is there, at the junction of talk and action, that Broun is not effective.
To be fair, he wasn't expected to make big changes in his first 11 months. His track record, however, demonstrates that he can't build the type of coalitions necessary to reform the government of which he is now a part.
Rather than fostering such partnerships, Broun has played to the cynics to establish himself as such an "outsider" that he would be no less effective if he just stayed home.
It is a stark contrast to Barry Fleming. He has demonstrated the teamwork it takes to actually pass good legislation - everything from Georgia's voter ID law to real tort reform.
More importantly, Fleming was an effective lawmaker even when he was a newcomer and a member of the minority party - right where he would be if elected.
And he's no stranger to Congress. As a young man, he worked in the offices of Sen. Sam Nunn and Rep. Doug Barnard. Amazingly, Broun's campaign - which brags about Broun's willingness to buck the Republican Party - scoffs at Fleming's experience with Nunn and Barnard simply because the two highly regarded statesmen are Democrats.
Broun has done some things right. He has been very visible in our community, and he is the first congressman to open a district office in Columbia County.
Broun's lonely "no" votes, however, are not among those achievements, nor are his endorsements from political advocacy groups. And his actions on I-3, on the UGA agricultural research station and on BRAC actually could hurt the 10th District.
Barry Fleming has his own problems - especially his support for a harmful state tax-reform plan that failed. And rather than attacking Broun, he should have spent more time telling voters what he'd like to do in Congress. He's done a good job as a county and state official, and that's the story he should have been telling.
More than any other part of the 10th District, Fleming has earned the support of the voters in his community who have benefitted from his exceptional service for more than a decade, and who can expect more such public service into the future.
That service begins with a vote for Fleming in the Republican Primary. We highly recommend it.
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