ALBANY -- After sweeping to the Republican District 2 U.S. Congressional nomination with more than 80 percent of the vote in last month's primary, Mike Keown took some time off to regroup and recharge his batteries before heading into battle with long-time Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop in the Nov. 2 general election.
A relaxed Keown, addressing the Albany Kiwanis Club Monday at the Hilton Garden Inn, avoided a traditional stump speech. Instead the state representative from Coolidge talked about how a Baptist preacher wound up running for Congress.
"When I was growing up, I never thought about politics that much," Keown told the crowd. "My father told me 'we were Democrats, we have always been Democrats and we will always be Democrats.' He told me that when I got into that voting booth that I needed to pull the big red lever and vote a straight Democratic ticket.
"So I did. But the last time I did that was in 1972."
So, what caused his shift from staunch Democrat to Republican?
"Well, for one thing, I started to look at my beliefs and began to realize that they aligned more with the Republican party than the Democrats," Keown said. "The initial break came along the lines of social issues, especially when it came to abortion. That was when the break started."
Keown first dipped his toes into politics when a friend talked him into running for mayor of Coolidge. Keown was elected and remained in the job (at $50 a week) for four years.
"I am proud of the fact that I brought cable TV and a new sewer system to Coolidge," he said, grinning.
After that, Keown served 14 years on the Thomas County School Board before running for, and winning, the State House District 173 seat.
As with his other political races, the GOP contender said the run for Congress just happened upon him.
"We were minding our own business in St. Augustine, Fla., last year. At that point, I had just been kicking the idea around and not made a decision one way or the other," Keown said. "Kathy (his wife) and I decided we'd pray on it. The next day we decided to go for it."
Keown, who contends this election is critical for the people of District 2, said he has placed the election in the hands of a higher power.
"This is not about winning or losing," he said. "This is a walk of faith for us. Sink or swim, it doesn't matter. We'll let God take care of it.
"There is too much riding on this 2010 election for us to be messing around. If we don't do something now, what kind of country are we going to leave our children and grandchildren?"