In his quest for an 11th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jack Kingston will go up against an opponent he still has yet to meet in-person.
Kingston, a Savannah Republican who has represented the 1st District since 1993, is being opposed by Chatham County businesswoman Lesli Rae Messinger, who beat Golden Isles businessman Nathan Russo in the Democratic primary. Kingston debated Russo before the July 31 primary.
“I have not crossed paths with her,” he said at the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce’s candidates’ forum last month. “The only thing absent is my opponent.”
Kingston also boasts one of the most well-stocked campaign reserves. He has reported more than $1 million in contributions and has more than $1.16 million in cash on hand for his campaign.
Messinger’s campaign has taken in just over $90,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings, and spent a little more than $93,000.
Since winning the seat vacated by Lindsay Thomas in 1992, Kingston has received no less than 66.5 percent of the vote in each subsequent election. But he’s still been busy on the campaign trail, and made a stop in Effingham last week as part of a meet-and-greet with 12th District candidate Lee Anderson.
“We’re doing everything candidates normally do,” Kingston said, “going to breakfasts, going to barbecues, shaking hands.”
The redrawn 1st District includes the southern one-third of Effingham, and Kingston is glad to have the county back in his district — provided he prevails in today’s election. He noted how he used to work with former school superintendent Michael Moore and has known Herb Jones and Jon Burns for a long time.
“It’s just great to be here again,” he said.
Kingston said people he talks to in his travels across the district are worried about a number of issues, in particular the economy and jobs. The latest national unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, and joblessness in Georgia is at 9 percent.
Constituents also are puzzled by developments overseas, Kingston said.
“They’re very concerned about Libya and how the State Department could be so off base in saying that was a spontaneous attack,” he said. “There are lots of problems, lots of challenges.”
There were 144,000 jobs added in September when the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, and 171,000 jobs were added last month as it nudged back to 7.9 percent. There were 363,000 unemployment insurance initial claims as of Oct. 27, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
“They quit counting people who quit looking,” Kingston said of the national unemployment figures. “If you look at the real unemployment rate, it’s about 14 percent. Twenty-three million people are either unemployed or underemployed. There’s a big problem with jobs in the economy. You can say whatever you want about the rate. If your family members don’t have jobs, it’s not working for you, and that’s what’s happening right now.”