During political redistricting after the 2010 census, GOP lawmakers in Georgia wanted to make Republican Austin Scott’s 8th Congressional District seat a little safer.
And with a little shift for some voters living in Macon, Georgia, they ended up doing the same for Democrat Sanford Bishop’s 2nd Congressional District seat.
As a result, The Hill newspaper ranked Bishop fourth and Scott fifth among U.S. House members across the country who benefited most from the 2010 redistricting.
“Republicans wanted to assure that they’d be able to hold the 8th district. Democrats wanted to assure that they could hold the 2nd,” said David Wasserman, U.S. House Editor at The Cook Political Report. “So Republicans made the 2nd district an African-American majority district by adding downtown Macon to the seat.”
Removing these mostly black, loyal Democratic voters from Scott’s neighboring district “robbed the 8th District of whatever competitiveness it had left,” Wasserman said. But it also helped strengthen Bishop’s hold on the 2nd district seat.
While Scott has drawn a Tea Party-inspired challenge in the GOP primary this year, Bishop faces no Democratic opposition and is the strong favorite to win re-election in November.
Bishop will face the winner of the May 24 Republican primary, either Leesburg optician, Greg Duke, who lost to Bishop in 2014, or Macon registered nurse, Diane Vann.
Another Republican candidate for Bishop’s seat, Columbus attorney Bobby Scott, 40, died last week of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Wasserman said it’ll be difficult for Vann or Duke to unseat Bishop, a 12-term fixture in the largely rural district dominated by agricultural interests.
“November’s outcome is pretty much pre-ordained,” Wasserman said of Bishop’s chances. “Sorry to burst the bubble.”
But after narrowly defeating Republican Mike Keown by less than 3 three percentage points and less than 5,000 votes in 2010, Bishop takes nothing for granted.
“The job doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the people,” he said in an interview. “And I believe I have discharged my duties and my responsibilities over the period of my service. I look at it as a public trust.”
Duke, who received 41 percent of the vote against Bishop in the 2014 election – with less than $20,000 in campaign contributions — says the time is right to oust Bishop.
“He’s been rubber-stamping the socialist tactics that our president has been shoving down the American people’s (throats) the past seven years,” Duke said of Bishop.
Duke said the impoverished district needs more industry and jobs, a goal he said Bishop hasn’t worked hard enough to meet.
“If we can get some good-paying jobs down here, we can move some of those people off the government doles and start putting them on the private doles,” Duke said in an interview. ... “It doesn’t matter what party you’re affiliated with, everybody wants a decent job to pay the bills and enjoy the freedoms we have in this country.”
Duke is hoping the nation’s frustration with politics as usual and voter excitement over Donald Trump’s campaign will “propel me over the top,” he said.
Bishop, who said he has won re-election when the district was majority Republican, majority Democrat, majority black and “overwhelmingly majority white,” has a long record of working to retain military, agricultural and industry jobs in the district.
He said his position as ranking Democrat on the military construction and veterans’ affairs subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee has helped maintain funding and jobs at Robins Air Force Base, the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and at Fort Benning.
While Bishop is frustrated by the polarized state of Washington politics, he said he’s doing all he can to overcome it.
I’m as disappointed with Congress as an institution as anyone. But I think my record is clear that I have been able to work across the aisle in a bipartisan way to try to accomplish the needs of the people.
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Georgia
The Bipartisan Index, created by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, ranked Bishop 13th among all 535 members of Congress for introducing legislation that gets co-sponsors from the other party and for co-sponsoring legislation that the other party introduces.
A member of the Democrats’ fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, Bishop also is co-chairman of the Congressional Chicken Caucus and the Congressional Peanut Caucus, which focus on the concerns of the two industries – both of which are prominent in the district.
Bishop is also one of 70 or so House members affiliated with No Labels, a bipartisan political group that supports four basic goals: creating 25 million jobs in 10 years; securing Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years; balancing the federal budget by 2030 and making America “energy secure” by 2024.
“I have just tried to be the representative of all the people. Of course, I run as a Democrat, but after the election, my job is to serve all the people of the congressional district — whether they voted for me or not,” Bishop said.
Diane Vann will face an uphill fight in the primary against Duke. In 2010, she won just 16 percent of the vote, finishing last among three candidates in the Republican primary for Georgia’s 8th congressional district.
In 2014, she finished last among five candidates in the GOP primary for congressional district 12. Vann garnered just 2.7 percent of the vote.
A former Army Reserve Nurse Corps officer, Vann became exposed to communism while on active duty in West Germany in the 1970s. Vann now refers to communism as “extremist socialism.” It’s a nod, she said, to its kindred spirit “radical Islam.”
“They both are alike in that the ends justify the means. So they’ll lie, cheat, steal and kill and it’s alright,” Vann said.
In a self-published book, “Undermining the U.S. Constitution,” Vann argues that Democrats have moved the U.S. away from its constitutional values and more toward communism.
While she said she thinks Bishop is a “good person,” she said he hasn’t done enough to protest the nation’s growing federal deficit.
“I haven’t seen him protest or do anything to change it,” Vann said of Bishop.