LEESBURG, Ga. -- Three Republican candidates for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D- Albany, sat down Tuesday for their opening debate of the 2012 political season.
Rick Allen and John House, both of Columbus, and Ken DeLoach of Warner Robins spent the evening blasting Bishop, who is seeking his 10th term in the House.
"I'm continuing to do what I attempted to do in 2010 and that is to help restore District 2 to where it once was," said Allen, a medical supply distributor who lost the 2010 GOP primary to Mike Keown. "My goal is to bring jobs and prosperity to District 2 and restore confidence in America."
Bishop defeated Keown 52 percent to 48 percent in the 2010 General Election to earn his ninth two-year term in Congress.
Keown, whose hometown of Coolidge was drawn outside of the 2nd Congressional District during the state's redistricting process, has endorsed House, a retired Army colonel and college professor.
"This is a quality of life issue," House said. "Just drive around District 2 and tell me we haven't seen the quality of life go down under Sanford Bishop. Look around and ask yourself, 'If Sanford Bishop is doing such a great job, then why are things getting worse?'"
DeLoach, an ordained minister and science teacher at Central Fellowship Christian Academy in Bibb County, thinks Bishop's problems are simpler than that.
"I think it is obvious that Sanford Bishop has lost touch with the people of the Second District," DeLoach said. "We need somebody who will represent us. He doesn't listen to people and he has voted overwhelmingly for the Obama agenda each and every time.
"I believe he (Bishop) is primed to get beat."
"Sanford Bishop has links to corruption, just look at his voting record," Allen said. "It's really hard to look at Obama and not see the links to Sanford Bishop."
The eventual Republican nominee faces an uphill battle in November. Bishop has survived all previous challenges to his seat and the recent redistricting saw District 2 lose some GOP base and while adding to the Democratic base.
"I believe it is possible to beat Bishop," House said. "There are a lot of people in the District, including the new people who were placed in the district, that are tired of Sanford Bishop. I intend to reach out to them all.
"It will be a struggle, but Mike Keown has endorsed me and we just need to get organized in every county and build the network. That network is critical, because change is possible."
The party primary elections will be conducted July 31 with a runoff, if necessary, to be held on Aug. 21. The General Election is scheduled for Nov. 6.