But Keown believes that there has been a fundamental change over the past two years in what voters want from their Representative. The Baptist minister and former prison chaplain explained that change through Biblical parable.
“I liken all that to the story about the prodigal son in scripture ... where he asks for all those things he thought was gonna make him free,” Keown said. “And then the prodigal son finds out that he’s mired in the pig pen and all those things he thought was going to make him free, all the change he asked for, he had become enslaved by.”
Keown said Bishop’s votes for the health care bill, the stimulus program and the cap-and-trade bill have put him on the wrong side of an electorate that has woken up to the error of electing Bishop and President Barack Obama.
“I think a lot of the change that we’ve asked for, we’ve realized now that this is not the change we want. We find ourselves mired in a pig pen and are being enslaved by that very change,” he said.
Barney Knighton of Albany is one former Bishop supporter who said he will be pulling the lever for Keown this year.
Knighton said he thinks Bishop stopped listening to the people a long time ago, but the Congressman’s vote for the health care bill was the final straw.
“I think you’re going to see a lot more voters this time,” Knighton said. “I think you’re going to see people break party lines.”
Turning Out the Base
After wishing Keown luck outside a high school football game in Bainbridge on Friday night, Billy Gossett told Keown to keep the card that he tried to put in his hand. Keown already had his vote.
But Gossett also didn’t seem overly confident that Keown could upset Bishop.
“Sanford Bishop is ingrained. He’s got a lot of farmers backing him, and he’s got all the black vote,” Gossett said.
The importance of African-Americans, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic, is hard to understate when it comes to Bishop’s re-election. The 2nd district is just less than half black, but in recent years, the percentage of black voters who come out on Election Day has varied greatly. In 2006, black turnout was 37 percent. In 2008, when Obama was on the ballot, black turnout surged to 48 percent.
Both Keown’s and Bishop’s pollsters are expecting black voters to come out in higher numbers this year than they did in 2006, but how much higher is the question.
Henry Jackson, 81, is a black Air Force veteran who sat behind Bishop during a Sept. 11, 2001, memorial in Albany last week, where firefighters raised a massive American flag that will fly over the World Trade Center site next year. Jackson said he thinks black voters are motived this fall because of Bishop and Obama, for whom the midterm elections will be seen as a referendum on his first two years as president.
“If they have any sense, they will vote,” Jackson said of black voters.
‘$100 Million-A-Year Industry’
When asked what he needs to do in the final weeks before Election Day, Bishop said the strategy is fairly simple.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.