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Tuesday, 24 July 2012 00:00

U.S. House District 1: Lesli Messinger says she speaks for middle class

Written by  Larry Peterson | Savannah Now

Lesli Messinger moved to Skidaway Island four years ago, she says, to escape the “dark and dreary” environs of New Jersey. But Messinger says she found darkness and dreariness near the tranquil community where she and her husband, Nathan, relocated. She says she met women who couldn’t afford cookies for their grandchildren and people whose jobless benefits were expiring.

She adds that she encountered families of military personnel and veterans who aren’t getting the help they need from the government.

“It was all very upsetting to me,” said Messinger, who owns an interest in Wright Square Antiques.

Not surprisingly for someone who’s volunteered for Democratic candidates, she sees such issues through a partisan lens.

She blames Republicans in Congress in general and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah in particular.

She says he has an “extremist” voting record that hurts “working families, the jobless, ... veterans and the eroding middle class.”

His campaigns, she added, are funded “almost exclusively by large corporate interests” and his voting record shows “he is working for them, not the people he represents.”

Messinger decided to run only a few weeks before the late May qualifying period.

“I kept waiting to see who would step up to challenge Kingston,” she said. “When there was no one who I thought could do so effectively, I decided I had to do something.”

Despite her late start, she quickly built a campaign staff and garnered endorsements from several prominent Democrats.

“I think she’s a person who will listen to her constituents,” said Miguel Camacho of Savannah, a vice chair of the state Democratic Party. “A lot of candidates just give you their spiel. She listens.”

Camacho stressed that he’s backing her as an individual, not as a party official.

Supporters say she has a compelling narrative that can resonate with voters.

Messinger traces her roots to a Midwestern farm worked by her family for 125 years.

Her grandfather won the Bronze Star during World War II, and one of her sons is a Teamsters union member. Another son died at 24 from a prescription drug overdose.

That led her to become a drug abuse counselor and advocate and speaker on the issue. She’s lobbied Congress and federal agencies for greater funding of related programs in schools.

She’s also helped public schools, a parent-child group, hospitals and efforts to feed and clothe needy children.

“She has some life experiences that make her a good fit with the 1st District,” said Bill Gillespie of Savannah, the party’s nominee in 2008. “The death of her son made her an advocate for good parenting.”

Charles Hill, a St. Simons Island office designer, also says she’s in sync with her prospective constituents.

“Being a mom and a small businessman,” Hill said, “gives her a good feel for the middle class.”

Link to original article from Savannah Now

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