An interesting contrast is shaping up in the heated race for the Republican nomination in the ultra-conservative Third Congressional District, a 13-county area that stretches from Metro Atlanta into north Columbus.
State Sen. Mike Crane of Newnan is running as a strict Constitutionalist who will fight big government all the way to Washington, and points to his record in the General Assembly as proof.
Former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson is running on his record of building coalitions and the economic success his community has enjoyed since 2005 when South Korean automobile manufacturer Kia decided to locate there.
With less than two weeks before the July 26 runoff, the five candidates who were defeated, including Jim Pace who had 23 percent of the vote, have lined up behind Ferguson, a West Point dentist. Outgoing Congressman Lynn Westmoreland has also endorsed Ferguson.
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“I used the phrase the other night, birds of a feather flock together,” Crane said last week. “... I think what we see is there were a bunch of big government, big business, crony-capitalist types masquerading as true conservatives and now they have all lumped themselves together into one group. Here we are standing for liberty and freedom on the other side.”
That is not how Ferguson sees it. His reasoning is rooted in West Point’s success.
“We did not do this by ourselves,” Ferguson said. “We had to work very hard to build relationships with surrounding communities and the state. I see that as one of the things we have to do in Washington right now. We are all frustrated where we are. I don’t have anybody coming up to me right now saying this is the greatest time in our nation’s history.
“We can get there, we can rebuild and get back on track, but you can’t do it by going up there with a stick of dynamite and blowing it all up. And you can’t get up there by voting no on everything. You have to build a coalition.”
Crane was the top vote-getter in the primary with 26.9 percent of the vote, finishing less than 100 votes ahead of Ferguson at 26.8 percent. Crane is banking on the conservative nature of the district. Crane has strongly supported religious liberty legislation and campus carry.
“The Third Congressional District is probably the most conservatively represented district in the state,” he said. “If you look at a lot of elected officials throughout the district — at any level — I would say the most common thread is the strength of conservative leadership.”
Ferguson, too, is banking on that.
“I have seen, looking at Sen. Crane’s record, that there are some votes he’s made that I feel like he wraps himself in political purity and really doesn’t look for a solution,” Ferguson said.
Both candidates acknowledge how close a race the runoff could be.
“We believe the race is going to be extremely competitive,” Ferguson said. “I think it is going to be very close. I expect both campaigns to be working very hard on turning our their voters.”
Crane said he is working on turnout, but has not seen any polling.
“I always run like we are a few steps behind,” he said.
The winner will face Democrat Angela Pendley in the November General Election.