Rep. Jack Kingston (R)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: April 24, 1955, Bryan, TX .
Education: U. of GA, B.S. 1977.
Family: Married (Libby); 4 children.
Elected office: GA House of Reps., 1984–92.
Professional Career: Insurance agent, 1979–92.
The congressman from the 1st District is Jack Kingston, a Republican first elected in 1992. The son of a college professor, Kingston grew up in Texas and Georgia, but also spent time in Ethiopia. After college, he moved to Savannah to be a commercial insurance agent. In 1984, at age 29, he was elected to the Georgia House and served eight years. In 1992, when Democratic U.S. Rep. Lindsay Thomas retired, Kingston ran for Congress, against Democrat Barbara Christmas, a school principal. He won decisively, 58%-42%, and has not been seriously challenged since.
|Jack Kingston (R)||165,890||(67%)||($873,385)|
|Bill Gillespie (D)||83,444||(33%)||($136,150)|
|Jack Kingston (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (69%), 2004 (100%), 2002 (72%), 2000 (69%), 1998 (100%), 1996 (68%), 1994 (77%), 1992 (58%)
In the House, Kingston has a mostly conservative voting record but he is not among the hard-liners in the Georgia delegation. During the Clinton era, he parted company with Republicans on trade issues, notably the North American Free Trade Agreement and normal trade relations with China. But he gave President Bush his vote on the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement. During a 2007 visit to Cuba, he softened his opposition to trade with that country, at least where the market for Vidalia onions was concerned.
He is the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, where he has been an advocate of the peanut-warehousing program. He also has a seat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In 2008, working with House Minority Leader John Boehner, he crafted a proposed moratorium on earmarking while permanent guidelines were set up for the practice, in which individual lawmakers slip pet projects into spending bills. But the proposal hinged on cooperation from the Democratic majority, which was unlikely. In the meantime, Kingston has made it his business to grab his slices of pork. In 2007, he had more earmarks than anyone else in the Georgia delegation, according to taxpayer watchdog groups. “I am convinced there are good earmarks and bad earmarks,” he said, while conceding that they got out of control when Republicans ran the House.
Kingston has been a party activist in the House. In 2004, he played a key role in persuading the Republican leadership to back the $10 billion tobacco buyout, which ended the quota system in place since 1938. In 2005, he joined Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., in a bipartisan initiative to reduce oil consumption by increasing auto fuel efficiency. “The age of cheap oil and gas is over,” Kingston said, a view that proved to be prescient in the late 2000s as gas prices soared. As head of the Republicans’ “theme team,” which coordinates the party’s national message, he became a spokesman for the House GOP on television talk shows. He encouraged colleagues to make appearances on Comedy Central and to make more use of blogs. In 2002, he was elected vice chairman of the Republican Conference. But he may have been the victim of a desire for change in 2006, after Republicans lost their majority in the House. Kingston fell short in a bid for chairman of the conference, losing to Adam Putnam of Florida on the third ballot.
On local issues, Kingston has fought for historic preservation and looked after local military facilities. As an appropriator, he has brought millions of dollars home to improve the water flow of the Savannah River and to complete the Sidney Lanier drawbridge in Brunswick. Kingston considered but turned down opportunities to run for the Senate in 2002 and 2004, when less senior Republicans prevailed. He seems comfortable with patiently reaping the benefits of seniority in the House.