In an election season that has all of the signs of being a watershed event nationally for the Democrats, Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) is once again facing an uncomfortably close reelection race.
A new weekend poll from SurveyUSA has Marshall, who is seeking his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, narrowly leading Rick Goddard, 49 percent to 45 percent. The poll of 634 likely voters had a 4-point margin of error.
Goddard, a retired major general and the former commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, has been heavily campaigning around the 8th District for a year now. He was in Newton County yesterday afternoon to participate in a Republican campaign rally headlined by Sen. Saxby Chambliss on the Covington square.
Marshall has raised $1.6 million this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, compared to the $1.1 million Goddard has raised. The newly money-flush Democratic Party that has made it clear Marshall’s seat is one they do not have any intention of losing despite his tendency to buck the party leadership on some issues.
Approximately 52 percent of his campaign contributions have come from Political Action Committees compared to Goddard’s campaign where PACs have contributed 25 percent of his total contributions. That the Republican PACs had so little cash to contribute to one of the few Congressional races that they have a realistic chance of winning from the Democrats this year is demonstrative of their relatively poor financial situation this election season.
Goddard in his campaign has tried to tie Marshall, perhaps one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, with liberal Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other members of the House’s Democratic leadership.
By giving his support to Pelosi, Goddard said Marshall has given his support to "a very, very liberal agenda that I don’t think is even close to what most Georgians believe in."
However Marshall, who is endorsed by the NRA, says that he has one of the most bi-partisan voting records in Congress.
"Lately, 57 percent of the time I’ve been voting with the Republican leadership but 43 percent of the time I haven’t," said Marshall on Monday when he stopped by Covington to be endorsed by the Georgia Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee. "Rick is one of those folks who’s just going to do basically what the Republican leadership says to do and if you’re voting 100 percent or 90 percent or 95 percent with the leadership of either side of the aisle, you’re really part of the partisan problem."
According to the Washington Post’s Congressional Votes Database, during the current Congress, Marshall has voted with the majority of Democratic members 86 percent of the time.
Goddard has also sharply criticized Marshall for his two votes in support of the $700 billion economic rescue package for Wall Street.
"I think it was premature," said Goddard of the bailout. "We had a whole bunch of people vote for this bill. Almost every one of them said this is not a good bill. And yet they voted for it anyway."
Goddard said he did not believe enough debate and research had taken place of other possible alternatives such as inviting all American foreign corporations with assets invested overseas to bring them back to the United States in exchange for drastically lowered corporate taxes.
"I just think that the Congress was in too big of a hurry. I think it was reckless.
There are just a lot of things that could have been done in the marketplace, in the financial industry to block and prevent this freefall that everyone worried so much about," said Goddard. "What was the plan? There wasn’t a plan. Just $700 billion and we’ll figure it out."
Marshall, who was one of two Georgia representatives to vote in favor of the rescue plan during the first House vote, said of his vote "That wasn’t a close call at all. Nobody wanted to be in the circumstances that we were in but we had the leadership on both sides of the aisle … all saying this has to be done."
He said his background in finance (Marshall has taught banking, commercial, housing and business law as a faculty member at Mercer University Law School) led him to believe that something had to done before the economic situation worsened.
"This was just going to be absolute misery for an awful lot of Americans," he said. "As I was campaigning [in the House] to get people to vote ‘yes’, one of the points that I made to the entire Democratic caucus was that I would give up my seat rather than have this fail. That’s how important it is."
In addition to improving the economy, Marshall said he believes reforming health care is a key challenge that needs to be addressed.
"We’re spending a huge portion of the biggest economy of the world for health care, and we’re getting a pretty average product," he said. "I’m hoping that we get some real good presidential leadership from the next president to make some major reforms where health care is concerned."
Goddard said he thinks strengthening Georgia’s agriculture industry will be a key issue for the state in the future.
"Georgia is very, very dependent on agriculture," Goddard said. "Agriculture is vital to us and we’ve got to make sure that we protect the farmers to the degree that they can continue to farm and make a living and bring in the crops that feed our country."