ALBANY, Ga. -- As the crowd broke up after U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, officially kicked off a 10th run at Congress at his local campaign headquarters Monday, one of his supporters shouted at a leaving reporter.
"In this economy we don't need to be breaking in a freshman congressman," the unknown voice bellowed.
Bishop, who has represented District 2 for the past 18 years, is counting on his experience and committee assignments to help him carry the day in November's general election against Republican challenger Mike Keown of Thomasville.
Many observers feel Bishop might be in for the toughest re-election campaign of his career. Keown, a state representative, stormed to the GOP nomination by garnering more than 80 percent of the primary vote. Bishop ran unopposed.
Keown is hoping to capitalize on the voters' disenchantment with incumbents. Bishop said he is aware of the anger on the streets.
"The is no doubt that people are angry and some incumbents are being seriously challenged," Bishop said. "Voters are angry and filled with angst these days. Nerves are frayed, but I hope the people will allow us to get a handle on this economy and bring it back into shape."
There is also little doubt that Bishop has parlayed his way into some plum committee assignments. Currently he serves on the House Appropriation Committee in addition to the Agriculture, Defense and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittees.
These committee assignments are vitally important to District 2, which contains military bases at Fort Benning, located near Columbus, Moody Air Force Base, located near Valdosta, and Albany's Marine Corps Logistics Base.
Bishop's 2010 campaign got off to a rocky start last Wednesday when Press Secretary Aston McRae fired off a three-page e-mail accusing Keown of budgeting issues while serving as mayor of Coolidge and alleged twice voting for a pay raise while a member of the state House of Representatives.
Unfortunately for McRae, the e-mail was sent from Bishop's congressional office instead of from the campaign, and that's a no-no. McRae pulled the offending document from Bishop's website and issued a retraction two days later.
"He (McRae) responded to some charges (from Keown), but made a mistake in that the response should have come from the campaign and not from my office."
That little dustup mattered little to supporters like pecan farmer Louie Perry of Moultrie.
"Sanford Bishop has done a whole lot of good for our district," Perry said. "And, to tell you the truth, I can't see when Mike Keown has done much at all."
Still, the nine-term congressman knows he'll have a battle on his hands all the way to November.
"All races are competitive," Bishop said. "Stewardship of the district is paramount to me. My record indicates that. Compare and contrasts our records; you'll see the difference.
"I also don't vote for (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi or (President) Obama. I vote for the people of the Second Congressional District."