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Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 12:31pm

Kingston Launches Senate Campaign

US Congressman Jack Kingston was on the road Thursday afternoon.

It was the Savannah Republican's first full day as a declared candidate for US Senate.

His campaign could test Georgia politics in two ways.

Recent election have turned statewide offices into provinces of North Georgians as South Georgia loses political punch.

Kingston dodged a rain shower in Savannah to announce his aim to buck that trend.

"We're here today to end speculation as I announce my candidacy for the United States Senate," Kingston said, flanked by supporters assembled at the Waving Girl statue on the Savannah waterfront.

Kingston's candidacy also could set up a primary showdown between traditional Republicans like Kingston and more headline-grabbing conservatives aligned with the Tea Party and evangelical groups.

Kingston said he won't be outflanked on the right.

"What my message is going to be is one of unifying the state from north to south and east to west and taking Georgia ideas to Washington and not bringing Washington ideas back to Georgia," Kingston said. "We need common sense government. We need strong government policy. Not laugh lines for Jay Leno."

That was as close as Kingston came to mentioning his GOP rivals.

Congressmen Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marrietta both became punchlines recently.

Broun made headlines by denouncing evolution as "lies straight from the pit of hell."

And Gingrey was criticized for defending a Republican candidate's remarks on rape.

The issues will be of more importance in the race than the candidates' geographies, says political analyst Robert Eisinger, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

"It's not about rural, urban, Atlanta or elsewere. It's about the quality of the candidate, their ability to fundraise, their tenure and seniority," Eisinger says. "It costs a lot of money to fly from one city to the next. It costs a lot of money for television advertising."

Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel of Atlanta says she's considering a run.

The field of candidates is likely to increase ahead of the primary, now more than a year away.

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