Kingston continues political climb

Monday, July 7, 2014 8:43 AM
Last updated 6:42 PM
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ATLANTA -- Voters in the Republican Senate runoff who want an experienced hand who came up through the party ranks have that option in Jack Kingston.

Jack Kingston
Jack Kingston

His career is the life’s dream of teenaged political junkies. The volunteering he and his wife were doing at a fundraiser as members of the Savannah Young Republicans led to the chance to meet one of his heroes, Ronald Reagan, then a former governor running for president.

Kingston’s hard work and connections led to winning a seat in the state House of Representatives for Savannah in 1984. Six years later he became the first Republican to hold the First District congressional seat since Reconstruction, and he’s been in Washington ever since, rising in seniority and power over those 22 years.

Although he never had serious opposition after his first legislative race, he says he still likes campaigning. Yet, these days, he frequently runs into questions about his years in Congress spawned by negative television ads from runoff opponent David Perdue attacking him primarily for his votes on spending.

“One of the constant concerns you have is that people are too polite when they come up to you. I’d rather have them ask me head on,” he said.

So, here they are, head-on.

He’s being called “king of the earmarks” because he used them more in a three-year period than all other Republican members of the Georgia legislative delegation combined. Kingston says the reason is simply that he was the only Georgian on an appropriations committee and he was carrying water for his state on behalf of the rest of them.

“Jack will say, ‘Yeah, some of these earmarks were good.’ I don’t disagree, but when it’s with borrowed money, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere,” Perdue said.

Kingston defends himself by noting he played a role in halting the longtime practice.

“People conveniently overlook the fact that I introduced the first earmarks reform back in 2007 and called on a moratorium that is in effect now,” he said.

Voting eight times to raise the debt ceiling is another charge. He responds that each of those votes was after hard bargaining resulted in agreements for budget cuts. Plus, he voted against debt hikes 17 times.

And multiple votes to raise the pay he and other members of Congress received is another charge from Perdue. Kingston notes that Perdue once received a generous paycheck for a brief tenure as chief executive of Pillowtex, a bankrupt textile company that soon collapsed.

“I find it laughable that someone who took $3.4 million in nine months’ time and presided over the largest textile layoff in history is worried about a (congressional) cost of living increase of 2 percent,” Kingston said.

The biggest difference between Kingston and Perdue is that one had a career in Congress while the other held a career as a senior executive in private enterprise. Perdue is appealing to voters who want a change while Kingston’s support comes from those who appreciate his conservative voting record.

Kingston has won the endorsements of the National Rifle Association, National Right to Life, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- as well as many tea party leaders who generally oppose the chamber. He has a lifetime voting record of 100 percent in accord with the National Conservative Union and 96 percent with the National Federation of Independent Business.

“When he goes around saying that Jack Kingston is a liberal, it just doesn’t have credibility,” Kingston said of his opponent’s attacks.

Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University, said while primary voters may be more attuned to attack ads than general-election voters, he said they are not ploughing new ground.

“The content of the ads is pretty well known,” he said. “There is nothing striking or new in them, but I guess it’s about repetition.”

What may carry weight with some voters are the endorsements Kingston has collected from former rivals Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey, according to Charles Bullock, a political science professor and author at the University of Georgia.

“Whether he’s benefiting directly from the supporters of those other candidates, I can’t work that out,” Bullock said.

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bright idea
bright idea 07/07/14 - 12:12 pm
I can't

vote to keep sending him to DC. He clearly knows how to play the game that may benefit Georgia but that game is ultimately going to kill this country.

Fiat_Lux 07/07/14 - 03:01 pm
Kingston has been faithful to conservative values and fiscal

responsibility for the whole of his time in Washington. The solution to Washington stupidity, irresponsibility and greed is not to get rid of Jack but to send him some help for a change.

David Perdue is definitely not the right choice at this point in time. He may well be a good man with a strong, religious faith and solid values--just like Jack--and he may understand how to run a business. But, and it is a big caveat, Perdue would be starting at ground zero in the Washington game, where people with power decide whether and how to help American businesses and American citizens. You don't have to be a business owner to know how to listen to business owners and industry leaders, and to understand what they need and what causes them damage.

We absolutely do not want to lose Jack Kingston as our ally in Washington. Simply look at his voting record if you doubt that. He already has done the plowing and heavy lifting necessary for a politician to have influence. His agendas and goals support the people of Georgia and he knows how to advance those goals, if enough people of his quality and caliber show up at the party.

Good luck, Jack. Several dozen like you in our federal government would transform our country into the land of opportunity and peace that our founding fathers had in mind. You have been faithful to their vision and we all owe you a debt of gratitude for your steadfast effort.

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