I’ve remained silent so far in the Republican Senate primary in Georgia, because I admired not just one but several of the candidates, including former secretary of state Karen Handel. But with Georgia voters facing a runoff battle between U.S. represenative Jack Kingston and gubernatorial cousin David Perdue, I personally will be pulling for Kingston.
Before I explain why, please allow a brief personal digression, to note that my roots in Georgia run deep, which is one reason I’ve followed this race so closely. A great-great-something-uncle was a U.S. congressman from there; great-great-something grandfather Shaler Granby Hillyer was a college president and (earlier) a longtime professor and trustee at Mercer College, where his father-in-law (and thus another great-great-grandfather of mine) also served as president. And plaques honoring my great-grandfather H. Hansell Hillyer and his second wife still stand on the site of the old Trustees Garden in Savannah, where (with him as founder and president of the South Atlantic Gas Company) they jump-started Savannah’s now-famous historic renovation movement (which led to a national speaking tour for her). (Speaking of which, his father, also a Georgian, had one of the most rococo names I’ve ever seen: Llewellyn Philologos Hillyer.)
Thus, when Savannah’s Jack Kingston first was elected to Congress in 1992 and later joined the Appropriations Committee where my boss, Bob Livingston, was chairman, I watched him more closely than I did most other young congressmen. He did not disappoint. Kingston was one of the most personable and approachable of all congressmen (RedState’s Erick Erickson, who endorsed Handel, nonetheless calls Kingston “one of the nicest people in Congress and one of my favorite people”). Kingston is unfailingly courteous and obviously of high intelligence. He has a superior work ethic and unquestionable integrity, and is solidly conservative enough that he was endorsed in the primary by Sean Hannity. And he will be tough for Democrat Michelle Nunn to defeat, both because he is not prone to gaffes (unlike Perdue), and because his palpable personal decency make him extremely difficult to demonize.
Will Kingston be a conservative firebrand, another Ted Cruz? No. But he will be far more in the mold of a Jon Kyl — a thoughtful and dependable conservative who nonetheless “played well” with all party subgroups, trying to find consensus without capitulation — than of a John Warner or a Chuck Hagel, sacrificing principle for insider advantage. He’s a good man, and will be a credit to Georgia and to the American republic.