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Dems face rough road to Congress

7/14/2012

By GORDON JACKSON
The Brunswick News

Nathan Russo has campaigned in all 17 counties that are part of the 1st U.S. Congressional District in Georgia.

He has accepted invitations to speaking engagements and candidate forums throughout the district, where he fields questions from the audience about his positions on issues ranging from taxes and military affairs to gun laws and health care.

But he says he has had few opportunities to meet face-to-face with Lesli Messinger, his opponent for the Democratic Party's nomination to face incumbent Savannah Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston in the November general election.

And the primary is just weeks away - July 31.

"I'm surprised," he said. "I don't know if she goes anywhere. We don't see any Lesli (campaign) signs here."

With more than 42,000 registered voters in Glynn County, Russo of St. Simons Island says he believes it's an important area in which to campaign. But he isn't sure why he and Messinger haven't campaigned more often in the same location at the same time.

"I wouldn't want to guess what her problems are," he said. "She doesn't go."

According to Messinger's press secretary, Deborah Dewberry, the last time the two candidates were in the same venue was June 18 in Jesup.

She said Messinger has been actively campaigning in the district and beyond. Messinger attended the meeting of the Georgia Association of Black Elected officials June 21 and was in Atlanta earlier this month to attend a foreign policy briefing.

Messinger's campaign has been sidetracked recently while she recovers from surgery to repair several slipped disks between the vertebrae in her neck, Dewberry said.

"She has had a rough week leading up to this decision to have surgery," she said. "However, she has been very actively campaigning, given the amount of pain she's been in for the last month."

In the past week, Dewberry said Messinger has received a major endorsement from Miguel Camacho, vice chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Russo said the endorsement is inappropriate because the party is supposed to refrain from supporting any candidate until after the primary.

A Glynn County party leader says she can't explain why Messinger hasn't accepted invitations to attend candidate forums and other events in Glynn County.

"She hasn't appeared in her own county for some events," said Audrey Stewart, chair of the Glynn County Democratic Party.

Stewart says she isn't aware of any campaign appearances by Messinger in Glynn County.

"I would think that would be harmful," Stewart said. "The forums are very important. You see how candidates answer the questions."

Dewberry said the Messinger campaign will participate in a cookout at a park on St. Simons Island today.

The winner of the July 31 primary will have a major challenge ahead. Kingston is a 10-term incumbent with more than $1 million in donations to support his campaign.

Russo won't give an exact amount in his campaign war chest, but he says it is less than $50,000. Messinger's campaign manager, Farooq Mughal, was also evasive, saying she has "financial backing and significant endorsements from leaders within the Georgia Democratic Party."

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