ALBANY, Ga. -- With just a week left before the Nov. 2 general election, District 2 Republican challenger Mike Keown is a tired man.
"I'll be honest with you, we're worn out," Keown, who is attempting to unseat nine-term Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., said Monday. "We've been working six days a week for the past 15 months. We go to church Sunday morning then spend the afternoon getting ready for Monday."
Keown, according to a recently released poll from Landmark Communications, is in a statistical dead heat with the 18-year veteran of Congress. The survey, released Friday, actually shows Keown with a slim lead -- 47.2 percent to 44.9 percent for Bishop. The difference, however, is within the poll's 3.5 percent margin of error.
Keown credits an early start and hard work for his surprising showing, adding that the campaign has gone well.
"Fifteen months ago, we started with my wife, Kathy, and myself and three volunteers. It took us two months before we could pay them," Keown said in a meeting with The Albany Herald Editorial Board. "This is our first congressional campaign and while there have been some stumbles along the way, we've learned from those mistakes.
"If we come back here again in two years, we'll do some things differently."
The "stumbles" to which Keown refers have come within the last month.
In early October, campaign strategist Jay Walker resigned after being caught up in a gambling-related influence-peddling scandal in Alabama.
Last week, Keown took a beating when the press was told to leave Doublegate Country Club property during a fundraiser headlined by House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
"That was Leader Boehner," Keown said. "He said he didn't want to mix fundraising and business. In hindsight, yeah, I should have pushed the issue (of media access)."
In the state Legislature where he has served, Keown said he has supported open access measures. "I'm not going to be secretive about things," he said.
Reports Monday indicated that nationally 90 Democratic and nine Republican House seats were up for grabs next month. Should the GOP pick up 39 seats on Nov. 2, power in the House would shift to the Republicans. Keown expects President Barack Obama's healthcare reform package to be one the GOP's first targets if it regains control of the House.
"The president's healthcare package is one of the most fiscally irresponsible things the federal government has ever done," Keown said. "The majority of people in this country, and a majority of Georgians, don't want it. But he (Bishop) didn't listen to them. That's why he's in trouble now.
"As an 18-year incumbent, he shouldn't even be seriously challenged right now."
Keown added that his goals are simple.
"I want to get government out of our lives; that's what the regular people want," Keown said. "He (Bishop) can't run on any thing he's passed or done within the last two years. His only hope is to convince the people of District 2 that I'm worse than he is.
"His record reads like a rap sheet in some instances. If you take a close look at his record, it doesn't matter if you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent -- I'd vote against him."
Regardless of Tuesday's outcome, Keown is comfortable of what has taken place over the past 15 months.
"I don't really care about winning or losing. This is more of a walk of faith for me," Keown said. "I just want to give the people of District 2 the opportunity to make a change. I hate all this political junk. I think it's killing the country.
"I just want to serve the people and come back home."
Keown and Bishop will square off in a final debate at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Albany Municipal Auditorium. The event is open to the public.