“I think people are more focused on issues rather than just name ID and creating a following,” said Kingston. “It started with (seven) candidates; there was a lot of confusion over who’s who. Now, people want to get more in the weeds on where are you on this or that kind of issue. People invite the debate now, and that’s healthy.”
Kingston faces businessman David Perdue July 22 in the Republican runoff for Georgia’s open Senate seat. The winner faces Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, Nov. 4.
Kingston said he’s a soldier fighting for the conservative cause. In contrast, he said, Perdue never voted in a Republican primary before deciding to run for Senate.
“I don’t apologize for the fact that while I was fighting Obamacare, he sat on a board that said we needed a national solution for the uninsured,” Kingston said. “I don’t apologize for the fact that while I was fighting the stimulus bill — both Obama’s and Bush’s, I might add — he was taking stimulus money on the board of Alliant Energy. I don’t apologize for the fact that I’ve been fighting amnesty and he sat on the board of the National Retailers Association and said the Senate amnesty bill was a step in the right direction.”
Perdue has criticized Kingston’s endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saying the group disagrees with him on amnesty and Common Core.
“He wasn’t worried about that when he was trying to get their endorsement, was he?” Kingston said. “Kind of interesting.”
Perdue also has said he’s contributed $2.5 million of his own money to his campaign. Kingston thinks it’s on the low end and Perdue likely gave his campaign at least another $1.5 million through political action committees.
“God bless him,” Kingston said.
Not only does Kingston feel his political experience is a plus, he attacked Perdue’s business background, saying Perdue took a 48-year-old company called Pillowtex into bankruptcy, which resulted in 7,500 layoffs.
Before the May 20 primary, Kingston said his campaign raised $4.5 million, and he plans to raise another $2 million for the runoff. If he’s successful and faces Nunn in November, Kingston said he likely will raise another $10 million.
“You get lots of outside groups on all sides playing in it,” Kingston said. “Nowadays, the balance of power in Washington is that precarious that you have a lot of outside groups that will play.”
Despite the large numbers, Kingston said 42 percent of his donations are in amounts less than $100.
Kingston said he’s a good candidate to face a Democrat statewide because his Savannah-area House district is 28 percent black and has lots of “artsy folks” and others who tend to lean Democratic. Chatham County went 55 percent for Obama in 2012, yet Kingston won the county by 53 percent during his last re-election, he said.
Reaching out to the other side of the aisle is important for Kingston, who has also appeared on the television shows Real Time with Bill Maher, The Colbert Report and The Daily Show.
Perdue wants tax hike, Kingston says
Kingston said Perdue has already voiced his support for a tax hike. The statement was made during an interview with the Macon Telegraph, where Perdue said he saw a need for more revenue, though he has said revenue does not necessarily mean higher taxes.
“He told the Macon Telegraph that we needed more revenues, clearly to a question asking if we needed to raise taxes,” Kingston said. “I know that because they asked me and Karen Handel — and I’m going to assume Phil Gingrey — the same question.”
The top three issues in this race, according to Kingston, are jobs, the economy and national security. He touts a six-point plan he says is similar to the Contract with America that Republicans campaigned on in 1994. The six points include restoring national security, boosting private sector job creation, reducing the national debt, achieving American energy independence, enabling work over welfare and accomplishing tax simplification.
A major strength Kingston said he has over Perdue is his seniority in Washington. Because he has been in office so long, Kingston said his seniority will help him secure appointments to more powerful committees, such as the Armed Services Committee.
“My seniority as a member of the House would move into the Senate, as respects my elected class,” Kingston said. “The opportunity for me to get on the Armed Services Committee is better than any of the other two candidates in this race.”
Dobbins Air Reserve Base is a vitally important piece of Cobb County’s culture and economy, Kingston said. He visited the base last week and said he is completely committed to saving it from the base realignment and closure process.
Kingston touts endorsements from former U.S. Rep. John Linder, conservative radio host Sean Hannity and publishing executive Steve Forbes. He has also been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life.
Despite his many years of service, Kingston said he hasn’t lost touch with voters. Kingston said he saw U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson a few days ago getting a haircut in a flannel shirt with no handlers or bodyguards around. He sees himself as the same type of accessible politician.
“The ‘public’ in public servant is an important part of this job,” Kingston said. “You need to be public, be accessible and be a servant, meaning if somebody calls at 10 p.m., you need to be professional and return their phone call, even if they’re not your golfing buddy.”
Regarding the ongoing situation in Iraq, where a jihadist group called ISIS is working to establish strongholds across the country, Kingston said a major mistake was made by President Barack Obama in 2011.
“The mistake in Iraq was made in 2011, when Obama did not get a status of forces agreement,” Kingston said. “At that time, we should have had a contingency of troops there. We have 28,000 in South Korea, 38,000 in Japan right now, and they’ve been the glue that’s held the fort down and kept the peace. I hate to see our troops perpetually anywhere. The reality is it could be the lesser of two evils, and the threat now is you have an al-Qaida terrorist group that controls an area the size of Indiana.”
Kingston said the military should operate on its own timetable, rather than a political one, and it should drive the process regarding foreign wars.
“Colin Powell said it best — and I’m sure Rand Paul would agree. He said, ‘If you break it, you own it,’” Kingston said.
Perdue is pushing for a limit of two six-year terms for U.S. senators. Kingston said he’s in favor of the idea, as long as every state adopts term limits at the same time.
“I have supported term limits. I voted for it,” Kingston said. “It was part of the Contract with America. I’ve supported a pledge that I will support term limits in the U.S. Senate as well. But you do need to make sure that everybody jumps in the pool at the same time. That’s where I might disagree with Mr. Perdue. I think if you’re going to have a law like that, it’s got to be every state doing it at once.”
Kingston, however, is not placing a limit on the number of terms he’ll serve if elected.
Perdue has also positioned himself as the outside candidate, a businessman running against politicians. Kingston issued a warning about Perdue touting himself as an outsider.
“So did Obama,” he said.
Port of Savannah, Common Core
Kingston said the deepening of the Port of Savannah is a major need for Georgia if the state’s economy is to continue expanding. He said signs point to the project being approved in the near future, adding the port is responsible for 352,000 jobs statewide.
“I think we’re significantly down the road at this point,” he said. “The cost-benefit ratio is $1 spent, $5.50 returned, so it is a big economic engine for the state of Georgia.”
He said the deepened port will also help Georgia companies export products.
“Sixty-two percent of what they do is exports, so there are opportunities for Georgia businesses to sell goods and services all around the world. When you’re manufacturing something in today’s global economy, there’s an opportunity to sell more of them.”
Kingston said he does not support the Common Core education standards or amnesty for those who have entered the country illegally.
Though Perdue has also voiced opposition to Common Core, Kingston said his opponent’s stance on the standards changed recently. Perdue’s cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue, pushed for the standards at the end of his governorship in 2010, and Kingston said David Perdue changed his mind only when he started running for Senate.
Yes to the Keystone Pipeline
The Keystone Pipeline, which would run from Canada into the U.S., needs to be built as soon as possible, according to Kingston.
“We’ve got to build the Keystone Pipeline,” Kingston said. “Pipelines are safe and effective ways to move fuel around the nation. It’s not some new concept. Furthermore, the idea of buying oil from Canada versus the Middle East is a national security issue. Not to mention an economic issue in that Canada may well sell it to a competitor of ours, and we don’t want that to happen.”
He favors other types of energy sources, including clean coal and nuclear power.
Kingston said his political idols include former President Ronald Reagan and former New York Congressman Jack Kemp.
“Kemp was a great conservative thinker and an ideas guy, but he also connected with non-traditional Republicans,” Kingston said. “I think that’s something that we need right now.”