When U.S. Rep. Lindsay Thomas retired in 1992, the “smart money” was on fellow Democrat Barbara Christmas to replace him.
The New York Times glowingly portrayed the St. Marys school principal as heiress-apparent in South Georgia’s 1st Congressional District.
But on Nov. 3, Republican Jack Kingston, a Savannah insurance man and state House member, took 58 percent of the vote.
With a record of voting conservative and a knack for pleasing constituents, Kingston has barely looked back.
He’s shepherded legislation to promote deepening of Savannah’s harbor and to fund projects at the district’s four major military bases.
Twice he’s had no challenger for re-election, and when he’s had one, has always drawn at least 66 percent of the vote.
This year, Lesli Messinger, a Skidaway Island businesswoman and first-time candidate, is trying to block his way to an 11th term.
Messinger, who moved to Georgia from New Jersey about four years ago, beat Nathan Russo of St. Simons Island in the Democratic primary.
She’s running in a district that still tilts toward the GOP even after the rest of Democrat-friendly Savannah was added last year.
Courting the middle class
Long active in school-related groups, Messinger, 57, is a vigorous supporter of President Barack Obama. She bills herself as a champion of the middle class, which she says Kingston has betrayed.
She says Kingston perennially wins re-election by “default” because no Democrat steps up to give him a real challenge.
“I am bringing it, however,” she said.
But that doesn’t have experts on state politics on the edges of their chairs.
“I don’t see how,” said Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint when asked whether there might be an upset.
On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best, Swint rated her chances as a “two or a three” at most.
He cited name recognition, the political makeup of the 1st and — at least as much as anything else — money.