Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why Westmoreland doesn't have to go back to Washington

Congressional incumbents enjoy a re-election rate of more than 90 percent, making any challenge to their seats a virtual longshot. Only a stubborn, optimistic and quixotic soul would be bold enough to crusade in the face of those overwhelming odds.

That brings us to Stephen Camp (pictured above with wife, Katie, and 2-year-old son, Jack).

Camp is attempting to take down Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia's 3rd congressional district, a man known not for his legislation but for a series of embarrassing gaffes that have twice landed him on "The Colbert Report." Recently, Westmoreland drew criticism for referring to the Obamas as "uppity" and refusing to apologize, claiming cluelessness.

Clueless, indeed, is the word.

Camp, 34 and a Democrat, works at his own private law firm in Coweta County, specializing in employment law and civil litigation. Camp was born and raised in the area, returning after law school and settling nicely into family life.

But in recent years, Camp said, it became apparent to him that his congressional district wasn't being served well by Westmoreland. Even in traditionally Republican territory, Camp thinks he can tilt at the windmills and force Westmoreland out of his seat. In that regard, Camp's campaign has been helped mightily by ... Westmoreland.

The "uppity" hubbub and Westmoreland's subsequent refusal to apologize has generated some buzz around Camp, who has pulled in donations from around the country as progressive bloggers (like this one) catch on to his campaign. I took a serious interest in Camp and his campaign as I dug a little deeper into the history of Westmoreland and his district. From what I learned about Camp through his Web site, I liked him immediately.

So, I spoke with Camp for about 30 minutes the other day, asking him a variety of questions about his campaign, his district and his opponent. Camp was nice enough to indulge me and left me wishing I had a vote in the 3rd District this fall.

Anyway, here's a few excerpts from the interview:

Q: Your name has popped up a lot more in Internet searches in recent days. How does it feel to generate some buzz?
A: Yes, people have started to pay attention in the last couple of weeks. We're facing a well-funded, entrenched incumbent. So we're trying to take advantage and get the message out. We're getting a tangible spike in terms of calls, e-mails and dozens of new, unique donors. They're coming from all over the country ... they're excited for us and the campaign.

Q: I'm sure there were a number of reasons that you decided to enter the race. But did facing someone like Westmoreland make the decision easier for you?
A: Well, no doubt about it, Rep. Westmoreland is his own worst enemy. Regarding his latest comments, it shows a lack of empathy to a large segment of the constituents in the 3rd district. It reflects an out-of-touch mindset and, honestly, he's failed the people of this district. We're sadly starting to be known as the district represented by the guy who shows up on "The Colbert Report."

Q: What made you think you had what it took to go up against an entrenched incumbent like Westmoreland?
A: Like a lot of people over the past two years, I developed a keen interest in politics. I just got a really strong feeling that the country is and has been on the wrong track. And I've always been taught that if something is wrong and you're able to offer something better, you have a responsibility to do that. That's why I got into this race.

Q: What were your thoughts when you heard about Westmoreland's "uppity" comment in reference to the Obamas and his refusal to apologize because he claimed that he was "clueless"?
A: Very briefly, I felt a sense of shock and disbelief. But that faded because it's becoming ... well, attention of a bad sort is becoming the norm for this congressman. Congressman Westmoreland should well have known that "uppity" is an insensitive term used against African-American people. What it boils down to is it shows that he's woefully out of touch and the people here deserve much better than that. When Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly both agree and say you need to apologize, you know you've done something bad.

Q: So, what's next? Do you like your chances given the odds?
A: Well, we're going to have a candidates' forum in the middle of October and a we'll have a debate in the third week of October. Anytime you can get in the same room with a congressman, you do it. And right now we're working on growing our network, registering new voters and, as with any campaign, raising money for the campaign. We're going to be out there, speaking to voters and trying to get them to the polls on Nov. 4. The people of the Third District are tired of a Congressman who sits on the sidelines and is incapable of working to move forward meaningful legislation here. They're not looking for new leadership; they're looking for leadership, period. Voters are going to say that loud and clear come November.

There's a lot more but you get the gist. Even the Web has limits, you know. If you're really interested, hit me up and you can get more info. Or, better yet, hit up Camp's campaign at: Camp for Congress, LLC, P.O. Box 1011, Newnan, GA 30264. By telephone, call (770) 502-0130.

Thanks again to Stephen Camp for being so generous with his time. Best of luck and Godspeed.

No comments: