Rep. Paul Broun (R)
Georgia 10th District
Northeastern Georgia is a land where the coastal plains and cotton fields yield to gently rolling hills and, near the North Carolina border, to the Appalachian Mountains. For most of its history, this was quiet, rural country, with courthouse towns and a few small cities, mostly forgotten by national elites, bypassed even by Union soldiers on their march to the sea. But in the last two decades, economic growth has radiated outward from Atlanta and spread across much of the region. The effects can be seen as far away as the old city of Augusta, on the Savannah River across from South Carolina. Founded in 1735, it is rich in history, with an old Cotton Exchange and mansions untouched by Sherman. It is also a center for newer industries that are replacing the paper industry, though the city retains a large share of low-income people. Augusta is best known as the home of the Augusta National Golf Club, the site of the Masters Tournament every year, its entrance barely visible off four-lane Washington Road. The city also houses the Fort Gordon Army base and has become a site for Hollywood film production.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 10th Congressional District of Georgia takes in much of the northeast corner of the state. It includes about 40% of Augusta in Richmond County, but not the city’s heavily black precincts. The 2005 redistricting added Clarke County and the liberal enclave of Athens, home of the University of Georgia, graceful Greek Revival mansions, boxwood gardens, and magnolias—and also, incidentally, rock bands R.E.M. and the B-52s. State planners have discussed a “brain train” to connect Athens to Atlanta. Clarke and Richmond counties are now the two largest population centers here. Columbia County, next to Augusta, and Oconee County, next to Athens, are particularly affluent and also rapidly growing. The Lake Oconee area has more than 100 subdivisions, including gated communities and golf courses that beckon to second-home buyers and retirees. Voters here prefer traditional values: Several counties recently rejected ballot propositions to end a prohibition of alcohol. The redistricting changes increased the African-American population from 14% to 20%, but this remains a solidly Republican district in national politics. In 2008, John McCain led Democrat Barack Obama here, 62%-37%.
Rep. Paul Broun (R)
Elected: July 2007, 1st full term.
Born: May 14, 1946, Atlanta .
Education: U. of GA, B.S.1967; Medical Col. of GA, M.D. 1971.
Family: Married (Niki Bronson); 3 children.
Military career: Marine Corps Reserves, 1964-1967; Naval Reserves, 1967-1973; GA Air Natl. Guard, 1972-1973; Air Force Reserves, 1973-1988.
Professional Career: Owner, Travel and Adventure, 1985-92; Practicing physician, 1971-present.
The congressman from the 10th District is Paul Broun, a Republican who was the surprise winner of a special election in 2007 after the death of GOP incumbent Charlie Norwood. Born in Atlanta, Broun is a lifelong Georgia resident who got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. His father, Paul Broun Sr., served as a moderate Democratic state senator from Athens for 38 years.. The younger Broun was also active in politics, though he has said that he was “far, far apart on the issues” from his father. He served as president of the Georgia Sport Shooting Association, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, and as vice president of political action for Safari Club International, a national advocacy group for hunters. He first ran for the House in 1990 against Democratic incumbent Richard Ray in the old 3rd District, which was then based in west-central Georgia. Ray won 63%-37%. After redistricting two years later, Broun ran in the revamped and more Republican 3rd District south of Atlanta, and lost the primary 55%-45% to Mac Collins, who held the seat for 12 years. In 1996, Broun closed his medical practice to campaign full-time for a year for Georgia’s open Senate seat. He was vastly outspent, and finished a distant fourth in the primary with an anemic 3%.
|Paul Broun (R)||177,265||(61%)||($1,800,502)|
|Bobby Saxon (D)||114,638||(39%)||($128,894)|
|Paul Broun (R)||44,956||(71%)|
|Barry Fleming (R)||18,372||(29%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2007 (50%)
There was little doubt that a Republican would succeed Norwood in this conservative district, but few predicted it would be Broun. State Sen. Jim Whitehead was the early front-runner. Whitehead attended the University of Georgia, where he was a star offensive lineman on the football team. He later opened a tire and auto shop in the Augusta area, served seven years on the Columbia County Commission—the final two as chairman—and won a state Senate seat in 2004. He was a close friend of Norwood’s, a fact he highlighted while campaigning, and he was endorsed by Norwood’s widow, Gloria.
The seat seemed to be his to lose, which is exactly what he did. He avoided debates and committed several gaffes, including remarking, “Iraq has not been a big thing in our district.” He also was forced to explain a 2004 comment that dismissed the University of Georgia as a “bunch of liberals” who, except for the football team, ought to be bombed. In the June 19 special election, he won 44%, ahead of Broun’s 21%, but not enough to avoid a runoff. Broun finished 198 votes ahead of Democrat James Marlow, a former Yahoo executive, who came in third with 20%. Whitehead got 69% in Columbia County, the district’s second-largest county, but he won barely 10% in the largest county, Democratic-leaning Clarke County. This was a sign of trouble for Whitehead in the July 17 runoff as the race turned into a contest between candidates representing the district’s two population centers, Augusta, Whitehead’s turf, and Athens, Broun’s home base.
Broun touted his medical background, claiming he was perhaps the only physician in Georgia who regularly made house calls. “I’ve got an old-fashioned medical bag,” he said. “My office is my GMC Yukon.” Broun said he opposed any steps to permit illegal immigrants to gain legal status, highlighted his connections to Christian conservatives on social issues, and also reached out to African-Americans and other Democrats, especially in Athens. Whitehead talked up his Augusta-area roots and complained about his Athens-based opposition. Whitehead had a considerable advantage in campaign dollars. Still, Broun won with 50.4%, just 394 votes ahead of Whitehead, with 49.6%. Broun carried Athens’s Clarke County with a remarkable 90%, while holding Whitehead to 73% in Columbia County. He also won 12 other counties.
Hours after he was sworn into the House, Broun expressed his libertarian instincts by voting for an amendment to bar the Justice Department from prosecuting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. He called the vote “a constitutional issue pertaining to ‘restraining’ the federal government from interfering with the rights of the states,” and joined 14 other Republicans backing the proposal, which was defeated, 165-262.
In the House, he catered to his religious conservative base. “I wasn’t supposed to be here,” he told anti-abortion protesters in January 2008. “I believe in my heart the Holy Spirit called me to run for Congress.” The first bill he introduced would ban all abortions, and he called for a national sales tax to replace the income tax. He also called for a ban on the sales of Playboy and Penthouse magazines at military installments, no doubt getting thousands of soldiers stationed at Georgia’s bases to snap to attention. With a flourish for colorful quotes, he said this of his opposition to the financial market bailout bill in 2008: “This is a huge cow patty with a piece of marshmallow stuck in the middle of it, and I am not going to eat that cow patty.”
After Democrat Barack Obama’s historic election as the first African-American president, Broun described Obama’s agenda as “Marxist” and criticized Republican nominee John McCain’s campaign as “inept.” He ultimately backed away from those remarks. But his management of his office seemed to be no smoother than his political discourse. Broun spent almost all of the annual allotment that lawmakers receive to run their offices in the first half of 2008, prompting staff members to quit, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Broun had another competitive primary in 2008, this time against former state House Majority Whip Barry Fleming, who was Augusta-based and sought to play down tensions with Athens. Fleming criticized Broun’s opposition to federal spending for economic development and law enforcement, and he had an early fundraising advantage. But Broun was helped by the endorsement of the anti-tax group Club for Growth and by other Republicans in the Georgia delegation. Fleming made a late-campaign attack against Broun’s financial problems, but it had little impact. Broun won the primary with unexpected ease, 71%-29, and leading in every county. In the general election against Bobby Saxon, an Iraq war veteran and gun-rights advocate, Broun won 61%-39%.