Democrat Lesli Messinger to Challenge 20-Year Republican Incumbent in Georgia's 1st Congressional District

SAVANNAH, Ga., June 18, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- On its tranquil surface, Brunswick, Georgia appears a quiet coastal town. But the political landscape here is poised to quake, as Democrat Lesli Messinger announces her candidacy for Georgia's 1st Congressional District seat in a timely bid to unseat 20-year Republican incumbent Jack Kingston.

One of only a handful of women ever to seek national office in this staunchly Republican region, Messinger is potentially the first Democrat in years to offer any serious challenge to a decades-long Republican stranglehold on the district.

Congressional redistricting in Georgia has altered electoral demographics in what had been Republican dominant Chatham County (Savannah). The change gives advantage to Democrats, and Messinger is leveraging that for her party.

Savannah wife, mother and businesswoman Messinger is challenging Rep. Kingston on the basis of his voting record, which she points out isn't just along Republican lines, but extremist, and impeding the interests of working families, the jobless and otherwise disenfranchised, veterans and the eroding middle class.

The composed, direct Ohio native came to coastal Georgia with her husband, Nathan, four years ago, drawn by the semi-tropical tranquility of the barrier islands.

They settled in on Skidaway Island, and though their new neighborhood resembled a balmy paradise, what they found was a predominantly Republican and segmented socioeconomic climate, too.

"The 1st Congressional district is stratified socially, economically, and racially. It's a district that echos what President Obama has termed, in his own campaign, the 'deeply divided' ideologies held by Republicans and Democrats," Messinger asserts.

The district has traditionally been insulated from economic vagaries like the sluggish economy, thanks to one of the world's busiest deepwater ports, the Port of Savannah, Savannah's billion-plus tourism industry, growth-oriented industries like jet-maker Gulf Stream, and colleges of international repute like the Savannah College of Art and Design.

There's also a very large, and growing, disenchanted middle class, thousands of disenfranchised working families, poverty above the national average and an atmosphere of racial inequality. "Every morning the city bus arrives at the 2,500-home Skidaway Island community and drops off a nearly 100 percent minority group of passengers, who work for community homeowners."

Incumbent Jack Kingston, a 57-year-old former insurance salesman originally from Texas, has run unopposed since 1992. He entered politics in 1984 by unseating State Rep. Bobby Phillips, with 62 percent of the vote. Entering Congress in 1992, he has voted exclusively along party lines.

"Over the last four years," Messinger points out, "he has voted against measures to assist the unemployed, retirees, veterans and troops in active duty. His campaign finance disclosure reveals that his sponsors, pretty exclusively, represent multi-national corporations -- including an Italian conglomerate that supplies war machinery.

"He has consistently voted against relief measures that even his Republican colleagues have approved. His brand of conservatism has hurt this country, and those most in need in the 1st District cannot count on him, including troops in the Mideast who need safety enhancements."

Messinger, from a midwestern farm worked by her family for 125 years, was raised by a family active in the Teamsters and the military. Her grandfather won the Bronze Star during WW II, and one of her sons is a Teamster. Another son died, at 24, from a prescription drug overdose, after which Messinger decided to run for office.

Her husband, Nathan, owns a diverse spate of businesses. They've created their share of local jobs, and believe that the American middle class has now been irretrievably distanced from access to the American promise -- that hard work produces a pay-off.  

"We see a future for our children, and theirs, that does not include opportunities. Fewer and fewer ordinary Americans will be able to buy a home, go to college, and support a family. Those coming out of college face a 30 percent unemployment rate.

"Veterans have also been neglected," Messinger adds. "They find so little opportunity when they face civilian life, it's like, despite the lip service given to supporting U.S. troops, we really don't care what happens to them when they get home."  

Messinger believes ordinary Americans stand to lose the most as Republican "marginalization" of those that need the most continues. "The Republican-dominated Congress suffers a "disconnect" from the needs of working families, the elderly and others on fixed incomes, and anyone not aligned with large corporate interests. I decided to run because I said to myself,  'I have to do something.'"

Her platform calls for boosting economic opportunity with incentives to keep jobs in the U.S., empower local businesses and heighten prospects for veterans and the unemployed, plus recovering opportunities for the middle class through job training assistance and more community economic development innovations, inclusive of all working families.

Messinger is upset over Kingston's introduction of a bill to mandate that those on welfare or unemployment, be subjected to drug testing. She's also irate over Kingston's votes against federal unemployment compensation extensions to states. "Kingston voted against such relief measures, even when his Republican colleagues voted for them. He has a personal problem with those in poverty, through no fault of their own."  

Mostly, however, Messinger takes issue with Kingston's all-around alignment with corporate interests. "His campaign finance disclosures reveal that his campaign is funded almost exclusively by large corporate interests. His voting record reflects he is working for them, not the people he represents."

Messinger insists she will rely on Kingston's voting record to sway voters in the 1st District, beginning with upcoming visits to communities throughout the district through the July 31 primary, where she will face off against a retired St. Simon's Island resident, Nathan Russo, who's running on questionable proposals to reinstate the draft and end subsidies to agriculture -- which could hurt the local agribusiness economy. 

"Russo can't beat Kingston, but I will. In Congress, I'll also promote term limits on Congressional office."

Resolute words that indicate this race could prove the acid test between the competing and, according to President Obama, 'deeply divided' visions of America emerging from our bipartisan system. For more go to

Media Contact: Deborah Dewberry Messinger for Congress, 404-663-5889,

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