Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, channeled a hometown crowd and palette of local issues to land clear punches in the fifth of eight GOP debates among hopefuls for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
While you would need a set of tweezers to separate the policy differences among the five major candidates, clear stylistic and strategic differences showed throughout the two-hour debate at Savannah Arts Academy Saturday night.
Kingston did not run away from his 22-year career in Congress, at times using his experience in Capitol Hill-speak to point out the inconsistency or weakness in his "outsider" opponents' stances, namely former Dollar General CEO David Perdue and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who both burnished their business credentials against what they called "failed leadership" by the three members of Congress running for the nomination.
Reps. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, and Paul Broun, R-Athens, on the other hand, constantly railed against Washington and rarely mentioned that they were members of the House of Representatives.
The key fault lines appeared on issues of flood insurance and the deepening of the Savannah Harbor. In both cases, differences in policy were minor; however, Kingston went on the offensive in both issues to highlight his understanding of both issues, countering Perdue and Handel's claims that a "lack of focus" has led to problems on both issues.
Perdue, who leads in several statewide polls, had crisp responses with key specifics and pivoted nearly every issue to the United States' fiscal position, highlighting his business record and calling on voters to choose new leadership in Washington. Handel often returned to the same talking points and phrasing to answer questions on different issues.
Despite his criticism of government spending and overreach, Broun managed to propose a massive infrastructure project to link Savannah with a new interstate highway to Northeast Georgia and Interstate 85.
Gingrey continued his pledge to leave the Senate after one term if he failed to repeal Obamacare.
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