Although Georgia's Ninth Congressional District stretches from the north Georgia mountains to Richmond County, voters can say with certainty that their representative will be an Augusta-area resident.
Five-term incumbent Rep. Charlie Norwood, who recently moved from Evans to Richmond County, is being challenged by Democrat Bob Ellis, an adjunct professor of marketing at Augusta State University.
Rather than hitting the campaign trail in the weeks before the election, Mr. Norwood, a 63-year-old former dentist first elected to Congress in 1994, has been recuperating in Fairfax, Va., from an Oct. 5 lung transplant. He was released from the hospital Wednesday.
He was diagnosed in 1998 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which causes scarring in the lungs. His health worsened in July, and he was moved to the top of the transplant list.
In an e-mail interview, Mr. Norwood said he thinks his experience and conservative views are among his strongest points.
"While I believe my experience on Capitol Hill has certainly enabled me to become more effective and make a bigger difference for northeast Georgia, I don't think that alone is my greatest strength as a congressman," he said. "I'd have to say my greatest strength as a member of Congress is that I have the distinct honor and privilege to serve the absolute finest people in the world - period."
Mr. Ellis, 54, is making his first bid for public office. He categorizes himself as a conservative Democrat and an advocate for leadership that is fiscally responsible and socially compassionate.
One of his top issues is the economy.
"We need to get economic prosperity cranked up again here in the U.S.," he said. "I believe our economy is a lot worse than you read and hear about it. I'm not bashing my opponent, but I'm simply saying that we need to look at where we are, how we're sending jobs overseas."
Currently, he said, the United States has more than 25 million small businesses.
"If just half of them added just one person, that's 12 million jobs," he said. "In order to have a sustained recovery, you have to generate jobs."
Mr. Norwood said he sees economic opportunities in local institutions such as Fort Gordon, the Medical College of Georgia and Savannah River Site.
"At Fort Gordon, I think we have a very real opportunity to bring new missions and grow the fort through the BRAC (Base Realignment & Closure) process," he said.
Mr. Ellis also has concerns about Fort Gordon, including the need to preserve the existing 17,000 jobs that would be threatened if the base is closed.
"That's a lot of jobs. Norwood missed the last vote on BRAC, and he's the only congressman on either side of the aisle who missed that vote," Mr. Ellis said.
Health-care issues also are on Mr. Ellis' agenda.
"Charlie voted against the prescription drug benefit for seniors. While I agree the co-pays are too high, I vehemently disagree with the way it's set up, in that there is a select group of pharmacies and insurance companies that they are allowed to deal with.
"If we open it up to fair market competition, the free market will make it available for the best prices to the people who need them."
Mr. Norwood wants to crack down on illegal aliens entering the country and touted the CLEAR Act (Clear Law Enforcement for criminal Alien Removal Act), which he introduced.
"The CLEAR Act would address America's criminal alien crisis by giving our local law enforcement officers the support and resources to detain illegal immigrants and reassurances that the federal government will start doing its job as well. We've got 80,000 criminal aliens running loose within our national borders today because of an immigration system that's flat-out broken."
Mr. Ellis said he wants to help the No Child Left Behind program become more useful.
"I have a master's in education, and I understand how people learn," he said. "No Child Left Behind has forced public education to become more focused on the idea of achievement. But it's also an unfunded mandate that comes at a time when school budgets here in Georgia are strained the most."
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or email@example.com.
bOB ELLISDemocratAge: 54Hometown: AugustaOccupation: Business consultant and adjunct professor in the College of Business, Augusta State UniversityPolitical background: Planning Commission appointee in Delray Beach, Fla.Endorsements: Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, U.S. Rep. Denise Majette, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy IrvinTop issue: The economy, with specific objectives that include protecting jobs in the United States and working to prevent companies from moving jobs to other countries.Other issues: Preserving Fort Gordon and its 17,000 local jobs that could be threatened by the Base Realignment and Closure initiatives; working to get federal funding for No Child Left Behind; and creating a simpler, more economic way for seniors to buy prescription drugs.Charlie Norwood (i)RepublicanAge: 63Hometown: AugustaOccupation: Before his election to Congress, Mr. Norwood was a dentist.Political background: Took office in Congress in January 1995 and is in his fifth termEndorsements: National Taxpayers Union, American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax ReformTop issue: Whether voters in the Ninth District want someone to represent their conservative values in Congress.Other issues: Helping ensure that America's men and women who are serving in the nation's military and intelligence community are given the resources and support they need to win the war on terrorism; lowering the tax burden on Americans by working to let taxpayers in Georgia and across America keep more of their money instead of sending it to Washington to feed the federal bureaucracy; and getting serious about the 80,000 criminal aliens who have been released within the nation's borders and cannot be found today because of a flawed immigration system.