Newspaper article Roll Call

Jack Kingston Works His Base at Rural Cookout

Newspaper article Roll Call

Jack Kingston Works His Base at Rural Cookout

Article excerpt

GLENNVILLE, Ga. -- Rep. Jack Kingston, who's represented Savannah in Congress for the last two decades, was at home Thursday evening in nearby Tattnall County, where elected officials and candidates streamed in to put their face in front of the loads of sheriffs, police and first responders gathered on the grounds of a rural pond house.

The Republican was one of three candidates vying for the party's Senate nomination to attend the 27th annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Cookout, held just outside Kingston's district. More than 1,000 people from around the state were on hand, sipping light beer and munching on pork barbecue, smoked chicken, Cadillac rice and Brunswick stew. Kingston, the only candidate with a campaign booth, could barely turn around without running into someone he knew, inevitably wearing his campaign sticker.

Southeast Georgia is Kingston country. His campaign has been working for months to broaden his brand beyond this area and into vote-rich Atlanta ahead of the competitive May 20 primary. But on this day, the congressman was sewing up his base.

"While it's good to come down here doing a little politicking -- nothing wrong with that -- I'm glad to be here because I like Tattnall County, and I'm going to keep coming no matter what happens," Kingston said on stage in very brief remarks to the crowd.

See more images from the cookout in the slideshow below:

The other Senate candidates on hand were former Reebok and Dollar General CEO David Perdue, who is a first-time candidate and cousin of a former governor, and former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who narrowly lost a bid for the gubernatorial nomination in 2010. Democrat Michelle Nunn's husband, Ron Martin, came on behalf of the likely nominee.

Rep. John Barrow, who now represents this county, appeared to be one of the few Democrats attending the nonpartisan festivity. But Barrow -- a top target of national Republicans -- worked the crowd as smoothly as Kingston.

One of three members of Congress in the Senate primary, Kingston is regularly in the top two in primary polling, along with Perdue. He turned in the strongest first fundraising quarter among Republicans, launched his fourth statewide TV ad Thursday morning, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Kingston just an hour before the cookout kicked off.

"What we're doing is combining high tech and high touch, and we're doing well in both categories," Kingston said in an interview. "We're on target, so we feel good about it."

Still, many in the party believe the unpredictable race for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss is wide open. With no candidate likely to take a majority of the vote next month, it's a fight to finish in the top two and advance to the July 22 runoff.

Handel, who has trailed Kingston and Perdue in fundraising and airtime, launched her first statewide TV ad this week featuring Sarah Palin's recent appearance in Georgia on Handel's behalf -- which the campaign said brought a fundraising surge of $200,000 in two weeks. …

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