The U.S. House 9th District Republican primary May 20 pits incumbent Doug Collins against challenger Bernard Fontaine, with the winner facing Democrat David Vogel in November.
Collins said he is seeking re-election because he's confident voters recognize he's done what he promised. But he also understands he now has a Washington record to run on, and expects voters to judge him by it.
"It differs in the sense that we are not a blank slate," Collins said. "People's opinions will always vary."
Meanwhile, the primary represents Fontaine's first foray into politics. But that might play well for the Suches resident, a former political science teacher and military veteran. After all, Congress' approval ratings consistently hover around just 10 percent.
"Name recognition is my biggest problem," Fontaine said. "When people find out I'm a retired military officer, that I'm not a politician, I'm not a lawyer, I do OK. I have a habit of talking straight to people."
Collins also has served in the military, with a stint in 2008 as a chaplain with a U.S. Air Force Reserves unit in Iraq.
But Fontaine faces other challenges, too. For example, he's running a grass-roots campaign while Collins has the backing of the national Republican establishment.
Between January 2013 and the end of March, Collins received more than $550,000 in contributions, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The commission showed no filings for Fontaine.
Candidates only file if they have received contributions.
Fontaine said his decision to seek elected office was sort of a calling. He hopes to capitalize on his outsider status, a role he seems to relish, and his conservative credentials.
"My special interest is the people of the 9th District," Fontaine said. "I don't want to go to Washington is the truth of it."
Fontaine said one of his key focuses is reducing the corporate income tax in the hopes that it will spur new economic development. He also wants to reel in the powers of the executive branch.
Collins said he welcomed the challenge from Fontaine, but insisted his conservative principles were unmatched.
"I don't think there's much room over to the right to go," Collins said. "I appreciate [Fontaine's] willingness to step forward for office."
Collins said that if re-elected he would continue to fight the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, reduce federal spending and ramp up inquiries into what conservatives believe are President Barack Obama's scandalous associations and actions.
The contest between Collins and Fontaine has been relatively quiet and respectful to date, but Fontaine said he's unsure how long this will last.
"The mudslinging may be coming," he said, adding that he's prepared to sling it right back.
Fontaine said he would be traveling every day throughout the 9th District until the primary concludes. He knows his chances for winning lie in how many voters he can meet.
Collins, meanwhile, said his sole focus is reaching out to constituents, meeting with school groups and party leadership and hosting speaking engagements.
"I believe that we have answers to issues the district cares about," he said.