If the Democratic hopeful happens to be a woman, facing off against a very entrenched and powerful man, many a political strategist might counsel, ”be prepared to lose.”
But Georgia Democrat Lesli Messinger is determined to run for Congress, and win.
“There’s too much at stake for Democrats to let this election default to Rep. Kingston, who is seeking his 11th term in Congress, largely unopposed,” Messinger asserts “He does not represent those most vulnerable in the ongoing economic recession, his voting record obstructs President Obama’s efforts to assist those hurt most by the economy, and is, in fact, more extremist than the voting records of most of his Republican colleagues.”
The only Democratic woman candidate running for a national office this election season in Georgia, she’s a lone progressive Democrat amid the state’s Congressional candidates.
But that could mean higher visibility. With public disapproval of a Republican-dominant Congress now at an all-time high, this anomaly might make her more of a standout.
Traditionally Democratic, Georgia has “flipped” politically in the last decade. Republicans currently control both U.S. Senate seats and eight of the 13 U.S. House seats — plus all of the state’s 13 constitutional offices. Here, 82 percent of state legislators are male. The last Congresswoman from Georgia, 11th District Rep. Cynthia McKinney, lost her bid for re-election in 2006 to current U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson.
“Women here have progressed in state offices, but have not broken into national politics,” Messinger notes. “I’d like to be the candidate that changes that.”
Messinger is mounting a campaign against the Republican monopoly on coastal Georgia, to restore opportunity to ordinary Americans, equalize fair treatment to minority communities when it comes to federal resources, and restore economic opportunity a Republican-dominant Congress, and career politicians like Rep. Kingston, have robbed ordinary citizens from having.
A former guardian ad litem for children, Messinger has been a school safety activist and national advocate for stronger laws to protect youth from drug abuse. Her political activism includes involvement with the high-profile Democratic presidential campaigns of Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and President Obama.
Messinger’s Democratic values took shape during her upbringing in Ohio farm country. Her father was a union member, and her grandfather, a World War II veteran who earned the Bronze Star. “We worked hard, and realized the benefits of that,” she says. “Today, lawmakers whose allegiance lies with corporate interests have robbed most Americans of the same basic opportunities.”
Observing the deepening chasm between the classes in the 1st District, and the continuing erosion of the middle class, prompted Messinger to run for Congress.
“I woke up to what is happening,” Messinger says. “I was sponsoring feed-the-hungry events and clothing drives in minority communities in Savannah, and saw the poverty concentrated in these communities here. I observed a 10-term Republican congressman working against the struggling constituents in this district. I knew I had to do something.”
Distressed by what she was observing, Messinger examined Rep. Kingston’s voting record.
“He has consistently voted against measures to assist those hardest hit by the worst economy since the Great Depression – the unemployed, working families, veterans, and individuals on fixed incomes.”
“He votes consistently against the disenfranchised. These are the constituents who need his support most.”
Gearing up for her campaign, Messinger created a powerful presentation that outlines Republicans’ “disconnect” from people most vulnerable in the ongoing recession, and Congressional allegiances to large corporate interests.
Messinger documented campaign funds to support this career politician from industrial lobbyists, big businesses and Political Action Committees (PACs), the financial backers of which remain anonymous.
While Kingston has been considered “untouchable” by any Democratic contender, Messinger thinks otherwise. “Redistricting that took place in 2011 in Georgia gives Democrats an electoral advantage in a portion of Savannah, and a better chance to win than in many years,” she says. “With redistricting, only 125,000 are required to win. With most of the City of Savannah’s Democratic voter base on board, the “electoral math” defines the 1st Congressional District as an 18,000-vote race.”
Gathering support from within her own party, however, is critical, says Messinger. “It continues to be quite a challenge.”
“Democrats here agree they want to send an alternative to Washington,” she asserts. “But they lack a way to marshal the resources.”
The Democratic contender has an uphill battle, but the goal is attainable, according to campaign manager Farooq Mughal. ”In the 2008 general election, Democrat Bill Gillespie garnered over 83,000 in his bid to win the 1st District seat. He came close, and Lesli Messinger is expected to come much, much closer.”
Rep. Kingston understands his vulnerability, perhaps, as he is campaigning early this year, which is unprecedented, according to Georgia Democratic Party leaders.
Kingston recently made public appearances at Savannah’s Forsyth Park, and was also observed doing a “drive through” in Savannah’s largest African American community, in which Messinger has established a solid presence while campaigning.
“I sought out leaders in this community and searched out the real concerns. I will champion a redirection of federal resources to create fairness in the 1st District,” Messinger
Messinger’s hope is that with the support of the Georgia Democratic Party, the National Democratic Committee, and men and women from throughout the 1st District and the State, she can end 20 years of Republican domination in the coastal 1st District.
“Citizens of the 1st District who remain jobless, struggling families, veterans, retirees, poverty-plagued and anyone interested in restoring opportunity to this country, cannot afford more Republican domination in Congress,” she concludes.
“I plan to restore what has been lost, and work for those not now being represented.”