MACON, Ga. — It's been dubbed the only competitive U.S. House race in the Deep South this election by political analysts. Thomasville attorney Chris West is vying to unseat the longest serving Congressman in the current Georgia delegation, Columbus Democrat Sanford Bishop.
This is Bishop's biggest challenge to hold his seat since 2010 when he narrowly won against former state lawmaker Mike Keown. Bishop has held the seat since 1993.
Now, the moderate Democrat says he's running for re-election on his record while West says the seat needs a fresh, conservative voice.
"I've got the experience in the private sector. I've got experience in agriculture. I'm a lifelong south Georgian. We've created over 1500 jobs through our company," said West.
"I've been able to use the political process to work very hard to bring jobs and a stronger economy, better education, safe communities that are free of crime and drugs," said Bishop.
Both candidates talked about the nation's economy, especially inflation.
West says inflation was driven by bad policy decisions. He wants to push for energy independence and strip what he calls "wasteful spending" in the Inflation Reduction Act passed this summer.
"We've got to unwind the bad regulations. We got to get energy independent. We've got to unleash American potential to be able to grow the economy," West said.
Meanwhile, Bishop says higher inflation was caused by the pandemic. He says he's helped by supporting that Inflation Reduction Act. He pointed out it had a specific section to reduce inflation effects on medication, particularly insulin.
Bishop says he want to do more to reduce food costs.
"We're trying to have our supply chain enhanced so we can produce our food, process our food, particularly meats, on a regional basis... closer to home which would reduce freight and make it possible to get it to the shelves quicker," Bishop said.
Georgia's second congressional district is the nation's eighth-poorest based on its median income in 2018. On top of that, the population has dropped over the past decade.
We asked each candidate what they would do to fix that.
"What we're doing is trying to make sure the quality of life which is connection to the internet, water, sewer, housing, healthcare... all the attributes that make for an attractive community are there so we can continue to attract and make the industries we have," Bishop said.
West says he plans to create a job advisory committee to help him get to the root cause.
"Candidly, these things should have been done over the last several years… they haven't been done," West said. "I've spoken to several people on the west side of the district or southern part of the district. In their cases, they actually drive over into Alabama to work, or Florida to work because the lack of economic opportunity here."
Candidates specifically talked about helping the agriculture industry, one of the largest industries in the district. It's taking a hit with inflation, supply chain problems, and trade wars.
Both candidates talked about the increased price for input like fertilizer.
Bishop says he, along with other lawmakers, are working on drafting the new Farm Bill. He says he wants to ensure farmers have the resources, research and protection needed for the next five years.
West says energy independence and cuts to some Environmental Protection Agency regulations will help ease the burden on farmers.