Oct 26, 2022 - News

Georgia's only competitive House race

Chris West and Sanford Bishop

Photos: Brynn Anderson/AP; Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

In southwest Georgia's second Congressional district, Republican newcomer Chris West is hoping to unseat a 30-year incumbent.

  • But Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) says his deep ties to his constituents surpass political winds.

Why it matters: The district is the only competitive U.S. House race in Georgia — and one of a handful in the South.

  • Two recent public polls show Bishop with a narrow lead but within the margin of error.

What's happening: West, an Air National Guardsman, developer and attorney from Thomasville, told Axios he has mounted the most formidable challenge to Bishop yet, given his military experience, redistricting that gives him the advantage and a midterm election that favors Republicans. ​

  • "Voters are looking for something different," he told Axios.

Yes, but: While Bishop has seen nearly $3 million in advertising support from two major outside Democratic groups, West hasn't gotten the same kind of help.

  • While House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy headlined a fundraiser for West, sources close to West's campaign tell Axios they're frustrated by the lack of outside support given how vulnerable Bishop is, and how close the race appears.

Flashback: West was also snubbed by national groups during his primary, when they backed his former opponent Jeremy Hunt. West won despite being outspent 10-to-1.

Between the lines: Bishop holds a powerful position in Congress as chair of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee. That role, which plays a crucial role in allocating federal funding to the agriculture industry, has helped him garner support from farmers, Bishop told Axios.

  • The second congressional district is 50% rural and the heart of Georgia's agriculture industry.

Zoom in: Jimmy Webb, a farmer from Leary, Ga. told Axios that Bishop is the only Democrat he votes for because of his record with agriculture. “He's always done what we’ve asked him to support what I do in agriculture. So why vote against him?”

State of play: Bishop, who's serving his fifteenth term, says he's weathered tough challenges before and has proven himself to have a bipartisan agenda. "People know that I'm not the kind of politician that puts party over policy."

What they're saying: Bishop told Axios that West is "new and green and asking him to be effective is like asking somebody who needs brain surgery to have a first-year medical student go operate on them."

  • West said in the pair's debate that the status quo isn't working: "We've been consistently in the top 10 poorest congressional districts around the country. It's really a shame, and we need a fresh perspective, new leadership to really move our district forward."
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