Two Republicans will be battling it out on May 24 to represent Georgia’s 12th Congressional District. Incumbent Congressman Rick Allen is once again facing Republican candidate Eugene Yu in next week’s Republican primary. The winner of the primary will face a Democratic challenger, either Joyce Nolin or Patricia Carpenter McCracken, in November’s general election.
Who will you vote for?
After two years of serving the constituents of the 12th Congressional District, Congressman Rick Allen says he is still in disbelief of the chaos he has encountered in Washington, D.C.
“Let me tell you, 90 percent of our time in our office is spent dealing with overreach by this administration through various regulatory agencies,” Allen said, referring to President Barack Obama’s administration. “It is terrible for the economy.”
As a conservative small businessman who founded his own construction company, R.W. Allen & Associates, at 25 years old, Allen insists he ran for Congress to specifically combat the growing reach of the federal government into the lives of Americans.
But over the past few years, Allen has become frustrated with the president’s stance on many issues.
“We need tax reform, but the president wants to raise taxes and you can’t do that,” Allen said. “We’ve got to get our corporations competitive with the rest of the world. We have to reduce our corporate tax rate and then we have to have some welfare reform and get people some training and skills. We have 46 million people on government assistance in this country. And the best way to reduce mandatory spending is to get those folks back to work.”
But Allen believes the only way to make real strides in the coming years is if voters elect a Republican to the White House.
“I can tell you this, I am going to do anything I can to make sure we have a Republican president,” Allen said, chuckling. “We can’t take four more years of this socialist government. I’m telling you. You can’t believe how deep and how wide this division is. It is awful. And we just continue to deal with these things like fiduciary rules and overtime rules and things like that that are just killing our small businesses. It has got to be stopped.”
Allen also fears that the country’s borders won’t be secure if another Democrat is elected to the White House.
“We need a new president,” Allen said. “We know what Mr. (Donald) Trump has said. He has said his number one priority is to secure that border and we have to do that. That is a major security problem down there and it is also a major problem for our culture as far as the illegal drugs coming into this country.”
Just last week, the House of Representatives spent a great deal of time talking about the heroin and opiate problem facing the nation, Allen said.
“We are trying to implement programs and fund programs that will educate people about the dangers of these drugs,” Allen said. “Because the statistics are horrible in this country and all of those drugs are coming over the border.”
But one of the biggest mistakes of the current administration has been Obamacare, Allen said.
Reports have been released stating that Obamacare premiums are likely to rise dramatically in 2017, he said.
“This costly piece of legislation is causing insurers to raise premium prices again, in order to compensate for their losses,” Allen posted on his campaign’s website. “The American people, however, cannot afford another increase in premiums; many are already struggling to afford their current healthcare plans or are without healthcare at all. Several common sense alternatives have been proposed — it’s time that one of these alternatives is finally chosen and approved to replace Obamacare and all of the disappointment that comes with it.”
Allen insists he has voted multiple times to repeal or replace Obamacare, but the president has blocked those bills.
“We put a bill on the president’s desk to repeal and replace Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood and he vetoed it and we didn’t have the votes to overcome the veto which is sad because Obamacare is a real problem in this country,” Allen said. “We have to fix healthcare because it is one of the problems with the growth of the economy.”
Over the past two years, Allen said he is extremely proud of what he has stood for up in Washington.
“I voted to defund Planned Parenthood. I voted to do away with tax-funded abortions. I cosponsored a balanced budget amendment to ensure our nation isn’t spending more money than we take in,” Allen said. “And I championed a bill to limit terms of career politicians, which is one of the biggest problems we have up here.”
Just last year, Allen also condemned the president for vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gained bipartisan and bicameral support.
The final NDAA House and Senate conferenced bill passed both chambers of Congress in October, but the president vetoed it.
“The president’s decision to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes critical funding for our troops, is nothing more than a cheap political ploy for his legacy,” Allen said after the veto. “The U.S. military is no place for political games.
In a time of fighting and turmoil, protecting our military is essential. We must fulfill our duty to support our troops and their families who sacrifice so much to protect our nation, and I am appalled by the president’s behavior in vetoing this important legislation. I will continue to be a voice of fiscal reason in Washington, and a strong defender of our military.”
The NDAA also included authorization for construction funding at Fort Gordon, which was approved at the full Army-requested level.
But Allen and his Republican colleagues are having another stab at the bill.
“This week, we are voting on the NDAA appropriations bill which authorizes additional funds for Fort Gordon and I will be voting for that bill,” Allen said. “The Supreme Court will also be ruling on executive amnesty next week. And, again, this is an overreach by the administration. We hope to win that in the courts.”
The Supreme Court will review a case challenging the unilateral executive action of the Obama administration: The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Records program.
As it is better known to conservatives as “executive amnesty,” DAPA represents Barack Obama’s signature immigration reform.
“Even if it is a tie in the Supreme Court, we win it because the lower courts have ruled with us on that. And, of course, that has been a very controversial issue for some time when the president just out of the blue came up with it,” Allen said. “I don’t know what his reasons were, other than he is not interested in a sovereign nation.”
But not all the news is bad coming out of Washington, Allen said.
“The one thing that I am proud of was getting the funding to move the Cyber Center of Excellence to Fort Gordon,” he said. “Because of the sequestered caps, there was not adequate money to make that happen and it was being delayed. We worked real hard and a lot of our friends in Georgia helped me to get that done and I’m very pleased that we were able to get some funds. We hope to get some more money for that and get them moved down here in the next two years.”
Allen believes the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon will absolutely catapult this region’s economic growth for many years to come.
“That is going to be the greatest economic development opportunity probably in the history of our district and maybe in the history of our state,” Allen said. “I relate cyber to the space program. You know how big the space program was back when President Kennedy said we are going to put a man on the moon? A lot of people said, ‘What are we doing here?’ But I will tell you, it is the reason that we have the innovation and the high-tech world that we live in today, which puts us ahead of most other countries. This cyber is the new frontier. I think it is pretty much compared to the race for space and it is very important as far as national security is concerned.”
During his first term in Congress, Allen said he has learned a great deal about what it will take to strengthen Georgia’s 12th Congressional District
“Just two years ago, I was in the business world and the greatest gift that God has given me is the opportunity to give folks a good job, give them the dignity and respect that they deserve, allow them to provide for their families, their church and their communities and their country,” Allen said. “That’s why I ran for Congress. But I felt like, from an economic growth standpoint, we could do better. In fact, frankly, the only way we are going to get out of this mess is to grow jobs and grow the economy and certainly that is the only way we are going to reduce this debt.”
But despite some of the frustrations up in Washington, Allen said it has been the “greatest honor” of his life to serve the people of the 12th District of Georgia.
“My colleagues here in the United States Congress are very envious of us down in the 12th District,” Allen said. “I have been a part of more than 1,500 new job announcements in our district and economic development right now seems to be very brisk in our district. I’m pleased to be a part of that and I will continue to work hard for the people of the 12th District because I believe the only way we are going to get out of this mess is to get our people back to work and that’s what I’m fighting for every day.”
Two years ago, when Republican candidate Eugene Yu ran against Allen to represent the 12th Congressional District, he wanted to serve in Congress because he saw the American dream slipping away.
The Korean-born Republican candidate with deep roots in Augusta wanted voters to know that he was committed to listening to the concerns of his constituents, not lobbyists or career politicians.
But when Allen won the Republican primary in 2014, Yu said he accepted the fact that the voters had chosen another candidate to represent the 12th District.
“After that 2014 election, I pretty much thought my political venture was over,” Yu said. “I publicly endorsed Rick Allen and supported him in the general election. Finally, he won and went to Washington. At that point, myself and my family, especially my wife said, ‘Well Eugene, you did all you can. Now let the other people handle the situation.’ So, I left it alone.”
But Yu said he couldn’t help but keep an eye on Allen’s voting record after he took office.
“The first thing that I heard was that he voted for John Boehener for Speaker,” Yu said. “I was immediately scratching my head and saying, ‘That is kind of odd.’ I remembered he used to say, ‘Vote for me. Elect me. When I get into Washington, I will not support our current leadership. I will not support John Boehener.’ But that’s exactly what he did.”
But at the time, Yu said he didn’t think much of it.
“I thought, ‘Well, he might have some reason,’ but I didn’t like that he started off by breaking his campaign promise,” Yu said. “I was just wishing he would not make any more mistakes or break any more promises.”
A few months later, Yu said he happened to be traveling through the 12th District and started hearing complaints from citizens.
“People started telling me, ‘Where is our congressman? We never see him. After he got elected, we never see him,’” Yu said. “My answer was, ‘Well, he is a new congressman. He is trying to settle into Washington.’ Basically, I’m kind of talking for him.”
But the final straw was when Yu heard that Allen voted to repeal the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Act which is a labeling law that requires retailers, such as full-line grocery stores, supermarkets and club warehouse stores, to notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods.
Food products covered by this law include muscle cut and ground meats: lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts.
“What happened was one of the big giant food distributors got a hold of the lobbyists and the lobbyists got a hold of the congressman,” Yu said. “If big companies import more chicken and beef, it is much cheaper than what they can buy domestically. Eventually, this is really going to hurt our farmers.”
According to Allen’s office, he supported the repeal of the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements on American meats to ensure the country is not “burdened with more than $1 billion in trade penalties.”
But Yu isn’t buying that explanation.
“How can he not be protecting our farmers?” Yu asked. “These lobbyists are attacking our food industry. They are sticking a knife in our backs and our good fellow Americans just don’t know that. When I saw that vote during the summer of 2015, from that point on, I thought I might be ready for another run because this man is not doing what he said he was going to do.”
On several occasions, Yu has described Allen as a “RINO,” or a Republican In Name Only.
“In my opinion, he might as well resign from the Republican Party and go to the Democratic Party,” Yu said. “But people aren’t paying attention, so they just don’t know.”
That’s why voters in the 12th Congressional District will frequently see Yu walking the neighbors and knocking on doors, trying to get his message out.
“Just yesterday somebody asked me, ‘Why are you bothering Rick Allen?’ And I said, ‘Why not?’” Yu said, laughing. “The man told me, ‘He is doing a good job.’ And I asked him, ‘You really think so? Well, tell me one thing he did that was good.’”
The man stood there for several minutes and could not think of one thing that Allen had achieved in Congress.
“Finally, the guy’s answer was, ‘I don’t know. Well, he’s a Republican,’” Yu said. “So my answer was, ‘Mister, I’m a Republican. I am conservative to the core and I will work for you.’”
But Yu has been thrown a bit of a curve ball in the final weeks leading up to the primary.
It was announced earlier this month that Yu is facing a Federal Election Commission investigation questioning the source of $700,000 in loans he made to his 2014 congressional campaign.
Even though the complaint was filed by another Republican candidate, John Stone, two years ago, the FEC must still review the matter.
“That is 2014. John Stone made a complaint. He withdrew it, however, once the complaint has been received by the FEC, they have to review it,” Yu said. “And, unfortunately, we are not supposed to talk about it. That is a FEC rule. So I cannot talk about it, other than they are reviewing my stuff.”
But Yu says that Allen is using the FEC review as an excuse not to debate him.
Earlier this month, Yu asked to debate Allen in Statesboro, but he refused.
“He’s blaming a two-year-old complaint from a former opponent that was withdrawn, but that the FEC is investigating just as they should,” Yu recently stated on his campaign’s website. “I don’t know what that has to do with discussing the issues in this campaign or Rick’s voting record in Congress, but since he brought it up, I’ve done a little snooping of my own. According to Rick’s FEC reports, he is pocketing campaign contributions in this election. He also used campaign contributions to rent a house, buy Masters tickets and throw a lavish party just a few weeks ago. Is that legal? Did people contributing to his campaign intend to have their money used this way?”
Yu believes Allen needs to give the constituents in the 12th Congressional District some direct answers.
“But he refuses to debate,” Yu said. “There is no gain for him to debate me because he would have to answer everything that he did and the only excuse he can come up with is the 2014 finances.”
Despite the FEC review, Yu insists he has done absolutely nothing wrong.
“By the way, that is my money,” Yu said, referring to the $700,000. “I didn’t do fundraising like he did. That is my money. I spent it and somebody else is looking into it. That’s it. But what I want to say is, let’s talk about the 2016 election. That’s my goal. I simply want to represent the people.”