Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., says the upcoming election is “really about taking America back” and “The battleground is the U.S. Senate.”
He told Radio America’s Greg Corombos his record in Congress proves he’ll be a reliable conservative if elected to the U.S. Senate this year. Kingston claims he’s accomplished more tangible results than his fellow congressional rivals for the nomination, and he insists growing jobs and strengthening national defense are at the top of his agenda.
Kingston was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and is currently a member of the House Appropriations Committee. He is one of eight Republicans seeking the Senate seat currently held by retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss.
Kingston is also one of three GOP House members in the race, joining fellow Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. Broun presents himself as the most consistent conservative in the race while Gingrey claims to be the most conservative candidate who can win in November. Both describe themselves to the right of Kingston, but he says the numbers speak for themselves.
“I think on some of the things we split the differences. For example, I’m 100 percent with National Right to Life, and I’m an A+ with the NRA. That’s the highest rating of the three of (us),” Kingston said.
“On other things, Club for Growth, Paul Broun is higher than me, but my American Conservative Union rating is 95 percent lifetime and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is 100 percent,” he said.
Listen to Radio America’s interview with Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga.:
Kingston said specific actions also show his conservative bona fides, including cutting $1.3 million from expenditures in his own office during his congressional tenure through frugality in salaries, mailings and other methods. As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, Kingston said he cut$3.6 billion in real money while his opponents can only talk about what they would do.
"It was not a decrease in the increase (in spending) but a real cut. My colleagues cannot make that claim. One of my colleagues talks about all his proposals to cut spending. That doesn't mean anything. What did you bring home? What can you claim you actually did? I can say I cut spending and got it signed into law. That's a big difference," Kingston said.
Broun and Gingrey both claim to be more fiscally responsible than Kingston, with Broun calling Kingston the most active in seeking earmarks among Georgia Republicans and being willing to raise the debt ceiling. Kingston addressed both issues, first noting that his votes on the debt ceiling have been very responsible.
"When we've been at war, I have voted to increase the debt ceiling and usually that is in a trade-off for spending cuts or something to offset it," said Kingston, who also said he is a staunch opponent of earmarks, and some of the projects he gets the most criticism for don't sound like wasteful spending to him.
"I was the first author of an earmark ban. We introduced that in 2007. We got 130 co-sponsors on it. It was the first earmark moratorium that was introduced. Certainly earmarks got out of hand both numerically and in substance. Most of the earmarks I had been involved in were military," Kingston said.
"One time, Fort Stewart wanted an IED simulator so that soldiers driving in Afghanistan and Iraq on Humvees would know how to react if an IED exploded under them. I would challenge any of my opponents to denounce that as pork," said Kingston, who noted that another earmark promises to provide a significant return on investment economically.
"Another project that I have worked on is the deepening of the Savannah River. There's 352,000 jobs related to the state of Georgia for that. There's a state match to it, and the cost-benefit analysis is a dollar spent and a five-and-a-half dollar return. I would love them to come out and say that's a pork barrel project," he said.
As for what he would do if elected to the Senate, Kingston said he would advance his American Renewal Initiative, a six-point plan that he said is far more detailed than anything his rivals are proposing. The congressman said he wants to beef up military preparedness to the point our troops will never have a fair fight again because of their overwhelming superiority. He also promises to push for balanced budgets and an end to addressing key economic issues on the brink of a fiscal cliff. Eradicating job-killing regulations, restoring work requirements to public assistance and fostering energy independence in a way that helps to drive gas prices back below $2 per gallon are also high priorities.
Also on the list is major simplification of the tax code.
"Whether it's Fair Tax or flat tax or whatever, let's have a tax code that's transparent and competitive," Kingston said.
With the first round of the Senate primary just more than three months away and national midterm elections looming in November, national Republicans appear to be treading in dangerous waters. The House Republicans are deeply divided over immigration policy. Last week, House GOP leaders unveiled a set of principles that would allow for the legalization of many people currently in the country illegally.
While not directly stating where he stands on those principles, Kingston offered his own approach to how any reform should be handled.
"Here are my four principles. No. 1 is no amnesty and No. 2 is securing the border. No. 3 is cracking down on employers who knowingly hire illegals and number four, no welfare for illegal workers," said Kingston, who says border security takes on several components.
"Some people say that means a big, big fence. Others will say it means putting predators (drones) and more Border Patrol agents down there.
But 40 percent of the people who come in here come in with papers that are legal. It's just that they let them expire. So in my opinion, securing the border also means securing the people that are coming in here and breaking the law by letting their paperwork expire and staying too long," he said.
In January, Kingston found himself in the midst of a brief media tempest after suggesting that students receiving taxpayer-funded lunches contribute tiny amounts of money or do some work at the school as a way to instill responsibility in kids and teach them that there is "no such thing as a free lunch." The congressman said he was stunned at the backlash.
"It's sad that in today's society you can't even have a decent conversation without these gotcha moments. When you were 14 or 15 years old, did you have a job in which you learned something that you still apply to your life today? If that's the case, wouldn't it be better if we had everybody at a younger age learning this great American work ethic? I don't care if you're Bill Gates' kid or my kid or your kid. Chores inside and outside the household will help you," he said.
Four to five of the GOP Senate hopefuls seem to have a shot at the nomination. Assuming no one gets a majority of the vote in the May 20 primary, the top two finishers will advance to a July 22 runoff for the nomination. That winner will likely face Democrat Michelle Nunn in November.
Kingston said Republicans should spend a little less time sniping at each other and a little more time telling voters that Nunn is ducking the tough questions so far in this campaign. He also thinks he matches up far better against Nunn than any other Republican in the field.
"What Democrats know is that I can appeal to voters that they feel they have to get to win. They know that I'm competitive. We've raised the most money. We have the most number of donors," he said. "My opponents, both in the House and outside of the House, no one has raised nearly the money that we have. There are a couple of self-funders in there, and I don't think you can really buy a U.S. Senate seat. Some of the candidates who spend a tremendous amount of time attacking me, they know they've got problems within their own campaigns."
"I'm running against the Democrat. I'm running against the Harry Reid machine. I'm running for the United States of America," he said. "It's not about Jack Kingston. It's not about Georgia. It's about taking America back and getting us on the right track."