Keown snags support of farm coalition

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Speaking from a farm in southern Dougherty County, Mike Keown, the Republican campaigning to oust longtime Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop, picked up the endorsement of a group of farmers and may be in a position to pick up a seat on an agriculture subcommittee should he be elected.

The announcement Tuesday came less than 24 hours before U.S.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, was set to host a $500-per-plate breakfast fundraiser for Keown at Doublegate Country Club in Albany. Should Republicans pick up enough seats in the House to win reclaim a majority, Boehner would likely become the speaker of the House and would have a lot of say in how committee assignments are made.

The endorsement from some in the agriculture sector is a direct shot at Bishop, who has traditionally held a solid grip on that particular voting block.

"I think it says that farmers aren't happy with Bishop's votes on health care, cap-and-trade and card check, and (they) are ready for a new voice for the area," Keown campaign chairman Andrew O'Shea said.

O'Shea said Boehner has offered his support of Keown but stopped short of saying that a deal had been brokered for a seat on an ag committee if Keown is elected, although O'Shea said Tuesday, "The minority leader understands how valuable it is to the people of Southwest Georgia to have a voice on that committee."

Bishop has sat on an agriculture subcommittee of some type since he was elected in 1993. He also serves on the defense, military construction, veterans affairs and appropriations committees and says that he believes he still has the support of farmers throughout the district and is proud to have the backing of Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.

"It's not surprising that Mike Keown has some friends and supporters who are farmers. But my support among all the major farm and rural interests remains strong, and I am proud of the endorsment of Tommy Irvin, Georgia's Commissioner of Agriculture," Bishop said Tuesday.

"It's hard to imagine a thoughtful farmer wanting to swap a seasoned member of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee that funds all of your country's programs for farming, ag research, conservation, rural development and nutrition for a freshman member of the ag authorizing committee," he said.

"Farmers for Keown," led by Mitchell County farmer James Lee Adams, held the press conference to announce their endorsement at Wetherbee Farms on the Dougherty/Mitchell County line Tuesday afternoon.

Keown, campaigning largely on a campaign centered around "booting Bishop" from Congress, has fashioned himself as both the fiscal and social conservative in the race, despite complaints from critics that, as a state representative, Keown voted to repeal part of the Homestead Tax Relief Grant (HB143), which increased property taxes on most homeowners by an average of $300. He also supported a measure to increase many state-mandated fees (HB1055).

Keown has brushed off the attacks, leveling many of his own at the Bishop camp, targeting the Blue Dog Coaltion member for his record of voting alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his questionable ethics regarding a series of scholarship programs involving relatives or friends.