Sanford Bishop asked constituents to judge him on the actions in his 30 year record in Congress in a debate on Sunday ahead of the midterm elections.
His opponent, Chris West, a younger lawyer and developer without much of a record to run on, asked voters to consider what Bishop hasn’t achieved. He asked them to think about a nagging ethics investigation over alleged misuse of funds and to decide that maybe, it’s time for a change.
The two, vying for Southwest Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District seat, exchanged views at the Atlanta Press Club’s Loudermilk-Young Debate Series, held at the Georgia Public Broadcasting Studios in Atlanta.
Bishop has held the seat since it was designed as a majority-minority district in 1992. Republicans have a better chance to dislodge him since this year’s redistricting shifted the district’s demographics. West scored an upset victory in the Republican primary over the much better-financed and well-known Jeremy Hunt, a Fox News analyst and retired military officer.
“The 30 years I have been honored to serve the people of the Second District is an asset,” Bishop said.” I’ve had 30 years to use the process to improve people’s lives through jobs, a more robust economy, better education, more accessible health care, and a strong national defense. I believe I have done that, I’ve delivered, and I believe I’ve done it well.”
The democrat also said his seniority would place him on key House committees if reelected.
In response, challenger West pointed to rising crime and inflation under Democrat leadership.
“He’s referencing issues like low crime, and the economy’s doing great. Apparently, he’s been in Washington so long he doesn’t realize how bad it’s gotten in our district,” West said. “I mean, high inflation, high gas prices. Our farmers are getting crushed. You mention our farmers. The reason we’ve done so well in our campaign is because of the farmers where we started. I’m from the ag community … Our farmers, they’re in crisis mode.”
“Several people didn’t plant this year because they didn’t know if they’d be successful,” West said. He tied the farm community’s woes to the Washington Democrats’ policies that Bishop had voted for.
Bishop said he’d been supported steadily by peanut, pecan, and cotton farmers, and received awards from farm organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Association and the Georgia Farm Bureau. “All the farm communities that are informed know very much what I have done to preserve and protect agriculture in Georgia and in the United States of America.”
West, who is campaigning as a jobs creator, was asked how he would do so by Donnell Suggs of Atlanta Voice. West said that as a lawyer and developer, building supermarkets and chain stores like Dollar General, he had created over 1,500 jobs. Bishop said he’d participated in many federal programs that created jobs, including one making 29,000 jobs in the Fort Benning area in one year.
West returned to one point several times: that the district, after 30 years of being represented by Bishop in Washington, is one of the poorest in the United States. Its median household income of less than $40,000 compared with the national average of almost $68,000.
And he pounded another: the ethics investigations against Bishop, still open after ten years, charging that he misused $90,000 in campaign and district office funds on golf clubs, country club memberships, and car repair.
Bishop—noting three times that he’d been an Eagle Scout—said he thinks Congressional ethics are critical and had moved promptly to remedy the situation and pay back questionable expenses once they were called into question.
“Ethics is important; transparency is important,” he said. “And I fully support the highest standards of conduct for members of Congress.”
Like all Republican candidates in the day’s round of debates, West was pressed hard on the issue of abortion, including by Bishop.
“How will he explain to the women of Georgia that he’d rather see them die than have an abortion even in cases of rape or incest?” Bishop asked. “You say there should be no exceptions.”
West denied this representation was his or the general Republican position. “Our position has been misrepresented.”
“There are no laws on the books in this country that do not take into account the life of the mother.”
Bishop claimed that West had argued in the primary for no exceptions. “It’s a decision for a woman and her doctor, not the government,” he said.
Bishop urged voters to support him based on his record. His opponent, he said, doesn’t have one.