The two chief Republican contenders for an open northeast Georgia congressional seat are in agreement on the deepening of the Port of Savannah: they both want it. But one accused the other in a recent candidate forum of supporting an earmark to achieve the goal.

State Rep. Doug Collins said primary rival Martha Zoller would support standalone legislation to carve out federal funding for project, which he said qualifies under the unpopular practice of earmarking.

“I’m against earmarks altogether, and a standalone bill is considered an earmark,” Collins said at the forum, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

A Zoller aide later objected to the characterization, saying the radio talker-cum-candidate wants to see the funding “go through the regular process.”

Both Collins and Zoller’s spox told the Athens paper they would press the U.S. Department of Transportation to designate funds for the port in spending legislation.

But one congressional GOP aide told the Tipsheet that process–whereby a lawmaker uses influence to appropriate federal funds for pet projects–is fundamentally earmarking.

“Doug Collins was right: Martha Zoller does support an earmark for the port’s dredging,” the staffer wrote in an email. “But so does he. Exerting legislative influence in any way to secure federal money for local projects is the definition of pork barreling.”

– Dome Confidential