Bishop touts his record to club

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, gave his definition of the word "politics" to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County at a luncheon Monday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

"Politics is all about who gets what, when and how," Bishop said. "I am fortunate and blessed to have learned over the past 18 years and have come to be in a position to make things happen for the people of the 2nd District of Georgia."

Bishop, in the fight of his political life against Republican Mike Keown, stressed his record of delivering services and money to the district while playing up his committee assignments in Washington.

The nine-term congressman currently sits on the House Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture, Defense and Military subcommittees -- all vitally important to Southwest Georgia.

"You have to remember that these our your tax dollars I am bringing back to the area," Bishop said. "I will never apologize for doing my job for the people of the district. It is crucial to have an elected official in place that can make things happen.

"And I am using every tool that I am empowered with for the people of the 2nd District."

Bishop then pointed out that his experience is the major difference between he and Keown -- without ever mentioning the challenger's name.

"My opponent has been the mayor of a town of 550 people, been on a county school board and has served two terms in the state Legislature," said Bishop, who was a 16-year state legislator when he unseated incumbent Charles Hatcher in 1992. "He does not have the tools or the background to do this job. His record doesn't compare to person who has a strong record of delivering to the district."

Bishop then addressed last week's revelation of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarship funds that were awarded from 2003 to 2005 to his niece, step-daughter and to a woman who later married a longtime aide, Kenneth Cutts.

The scholarship controversy developed following a report by Washington-based Politico on nthe organization's website. No link between Politico and the campaign of Bishop's opponent, Republican Mike Keown, has been established, but Bishop's campaign has attempted to downplay the controversy as smear campaign tactics.

"There have been many distractions in this campaign and this is just the latest attempt by my opponent to distract from the fact he is not qualified," Bishop said. "Yes, I was somewhat surprised because I could not imagine that kind of attack. Yet when you have no record of anything to fall back on, this is the result.

"I have repaid the CBC Foundation a total of $6,350 today for those scholarships, which I'd like to point out were not prohibited at the time."

In 2008, the CBC amended it rules to prevent the awarding of scholarships to family members and staffers.

"I would think that given the importance of the issues facing our nation that my opponent could come up with something better than these distractions," Bishop said.

The congressmen acknowledged his campaign has been plagued by a series of missteps since July when campaign-related criticism of Keown came from Bishop's congressional office. Just weeks later, a voice mail from Bishop aide Jamey Crozier threatening to withhold services from a Calhoun County farmer became public.

"We have all fallen short in the eyes of God because we are human," Bishop said. "We all make mistakes, and we have made some mistakes. We learn from those errors and move on."

Bishop said later he would welcome a debate with Keown, but was unaware if his campaign office had been approached by the challenger.