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U.S. Congress candidates raise funds

7/4/2012

By GORDON JACKSON
The Brunswick News

The last time U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston filed a campaign finance report, his political war chest contained $1.2 million. That number will likely be considerably higher when the Savannah Republican releases his new campaign finance report on July 16.

The Savannah Republican, who has served 10 terms in Congress, does not have a challenger for his party's nomination. Instead, he can focus on generating support and raising more campaign funds until he learns who he will face in the November elections.

That's not the case with the two Democrats seeking the nomination to challenge Kingston for the 1st Congressional District seat.

Both Nathan Russo, of St. Simons Island, and Lesli Messinger, of Savannah, have limited financial resources and the money they have raised is being spent to earn their party's nomination. Neither candidate revealed how much they have raised so far.

Russo would only say that he hasn't raised "nowhere near" $50,000.

"I'm not saying," he said. "It's like showing your poker hand."

Messinger's campaign manager, Farooq Mughal, said she has "financial backing and significant endorsements from leaders within the Georgia Democratic Party."

The Democratic Party will help the primary's winner with fund raisers and other financial support, but is not currently involved financially with either campaign.

Mughal said the party will provide enough resources to defeat Kingston and help President Barack Obama win a second term in office. Mughal predicted Messinger will emerge as the primary's winner.

Despite the financial advantage Kingston will have, his spokesman Chris Crawford said the 10-term congressman will take either challenger seriously.

"You can see by Jack's actions the campaign is anything but complacent," he said. "We don't assume anything when it comes to funding."

While they might not be able to outspend Kingston, Russo and Messinger believe he can be beat.

"I think redistricting helps the Democrats, assuming the Democrats come out and vote," Russo said. "I need to convince moderate Republicans to vote for me."

Messinger also believes redistricting "has tipped the scales in favor of a Democrat for this election."

"Kingston himself has said he thinks redistricting will help him focus better on constituents, but I would reply that this is really too little, too late," she said. "We need more than cronyism in Congress, and this is largely the understanding most Democrats have of his 20 years of service in Washington."

Crawford believes Kingston's support remains strong, despite criticism from challengers.

"I think Jack's enthusiasm encourages people to go out and vote," he said. "We have a message. He's fighting for the interests of the people of Georgia."

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