Aaron Barlow is currently challenging Brandon Beach for a State Senate seat. The North Fulton and Cherokee County district is one of Georgia’s fastest growing and most affluent. It mixes high density suburban employment centers with large lot rural residential neighborhoods, and many typical suburban subdivisions that separate them. The angst of impending growth and development is ever present in this type of district, and the overlay of “angry GOP base” in this Donald Trump fueled cycle.
There’s a lot of opportunity for challengers in this cycle. Tap into the voter anger and distrust or dislike of all incumbents and even the most accomplished and most popular elected officials could be potentially vulnerable. Position yourself opposite any of the incumbents negatives – real or perceived – and all you have to be is “not him” to have a shot. Add in the ability to self fund, claim Trump “successful businessman status”, and you can almost buy a political office.
Enter Aaron Barlow. Literally. It seems he just got off a plane from O’Hare.
Barlow’s campaign is designed to appeal to the angst of the target GOP voter in the district. Bumper sticker slogans of “quality of life”, “low taxes”, and “my opponent is a Bernie Sanders loving lib’rul” (not an actual quote. The actual line courtesy of the Cherokee Tribune is Barlow, who says he’s running for office to “take back the district for conservatives,” repeatedly told audience members that the Republican senator voted like a liberal during the legislative session, once even likening his opponent to Bernie Sanders.”)
So when Brandon Beach makes the claim that Barlow has only lived in the district for 8 months, the real question is “how committed to these district values is Barlow?” Or is he just taking advantage of the political opportunity in front of him, and if so, for whom?
Let’s first talk about residence. Barlow isn’t exactly truthful when he says he’s lived in the district for 12 years. In fact, it appears he’s flat out lied about it on Fulton County Homestead Tax Exemption claims that have cost Fulton Taxpayers money.
From 2012 to 2015, Aaron and Brenda Barlow claimed homestead exemption for their home in North Fulton County. They voted in the 2012 election but did not vote again in Fulton County until March of 2016, skipping the 2014 cycle here.
In September of 2014, Aaron Barlow sued Cynthia Deck for failing to pay August and September rent. It was Ms. Deck, the defendant, that had the address on the Barlow’s homestead exemption. Mr. Barlow listed his address on the complaint as 225 N. Columbus Drive, Suite 6505, Chicago Illinois. While Mr. Barlow was claiming homestead in Fulton County, he was suing a lady for back rent living at that home from a 65th floor condo that sold in 2010 for $1.2 Million.
Subsequent court actions in February and June of 2015 (just 11 months ago) continued to use Barlow’s Chicago address, with Mr. Barlow signing each court document containing it.
His absence from Georgia may explain why he seems so confused about whether the district includes Cobb County, or his frequent claims that Senator Beach is trying to bring MARTA to Cherokee (it doesn’t, and he isn’t). The fact that he apparently spent much of Georgia’s economic recovery out of state may explain why he doesn’t understand that Georgia doesn’t have a “budget surplus” that could have funded transportation improvements; or worse – that if Georgia had actually adopted this mythical plan he claims he would have supported (had he lived here during the time Senator Beach spent a year on the Joint House-Senate Transportation Study Committee) then Georgia’s transportation revenues would actually have fallen $170 Million this year, and the mythical “surplus” funds would have come from the money used to restore education funding. In other words, the Cherokee and Fulton Boards of Education would have received less money in order to move Georgia out of last place in highway spending.
But Mr. Barlow doesn’t know that – or he doesn’t think an angry voter base cares. Perhaps they should care more when someone doesn’t pay his own share of property taxes due while living in Chicago. Or, perhaps, they can make the question simpler: Does a recent (re) transplant from an exclusive high rise condominium really care about the Milton/Cherokee quality of life he says is being threatened? Or does he see an opportunity to use embedded fears of a voter base to stoke angsts for political power. And if the latter…for what – or whose – purpose?