Jack Kingston is U.S. Representative for the First Congressional District of Georgia, which encompasses 17 counties in Southeast Georgia including the entirety of the state’s coastline. He has represented the district since 1983.
But the Savannah resident — and former insurance broker– may not be in the House for much longer. He is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who is not running for re-election.
Getting to the Senate won’t be easy. Kingston faces multiple opponents – including Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and former Georgia secretary of state, Karen Handel– in the Republican primary.
And if he wins that primary, he could face a well-financed Democrat, non-profit CEO Michelle Nunn (D), the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).
Kingston is one of the most powerful members in the House, where Republicans hold the majority.
He was appointed to the powerful House Appropriations Committee in his second term. Today he serves as chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee which oversees federal spending on worker safety, health, education, and retirement security programs.
He also serves as a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. There are four major military installations in his district.
In 2013, Kingston was appointed to the State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies Subcommittee which oversees U.S. diplomatic efforts as well as some foreign aid and international security programs.
From 2008-2012, Kingston served as the top Republican on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
Before going to Washington, Kingston served in the Georgia General Assembly. He was one of just 26 Republicans in the Georgia House when elected in 1984. He served there until 1992, when he was first elected to Congress.
He is a fiscal and social conservative. He is pro-life, pro-business, pro-defense and anti-Obamacare, anti-tax and anti-gay marriage in his politics.
He gave up his insurance career when he left for Washington, although he brought his CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) designation with him, making him he only one in Congress.
Insurance was a big part of his life early in his career. It’s a part he remembers fondly.
Kingston earned a degree in economics from the University of Georgia, where he was active in the College Republicans.
After college, Jack moved to Savannah and took a job as a shipping agent at the port of Savannah. He eventually entered the insurance business with a regional brokerage, Carswell & Co., based in Savannah, which later merged with Palmer & Cay. While there, he rose to the position of vice president and was a board member.
He sold agribusiness and property/casualty insurance all across the state. He put a lot of miles on the family car selling insurance but boasts that he still drives that 1993 Buick Roadmaster today.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with people from a number of backgrounds and professions. I spent a lot of time understanding their business so I could understand what product line made the most sense,” Kingston told Insurance Journal in an email break from his Senate campaign. “I apply that same method to my work in Congress in trying to address the problems we face as a country.
“From reducing government barriers to growth to reforming the National Flood Insurance Program, the lessons from my days in insurance are invaluable.”
His mother was his inspiration for his career in politics.
“My mother was a very civic-minded woman and incredibly involved in our community. While you could count the number of Republicans in Athens on one hand, she thought it was important to build a party that could express another point of view. She dragged my sisters and I along with her and, while they wanted nothing to do with it, I really enjoyed the meetings, conventions and rallies,” he recalls.
He says his “best takeaway from politics” has been his wife Libby, whom he met when he was chairman of the University of Georgia’s College Republicans.
“I met her while handing out brochures for Gerald Ford. Countless party meetings, campaigns, rallies, and parades later, we are still fighting for the cause,” he says.
The former insurance broker believes the time he spent in insurance in Georgia taught him important lessons that have helped him in Washington.
“Insurance requires you to really listen to someone, understand their business, and know what keeps them up at night,” the Georgia officials says. “While too often we as a society talk past each other, my days in insurance force me to listen, understand, and communicate with the people around me.”
Since insurance is an industry that, in his words, “transcends most others,” is involved in every aspect of people’s lives and touches every industry, he has taken that experience to Washington and been able to work on life, health, and property/casualty insurance-related issues including he crop insurance , class action reform, terrorism risk insurance, and the estate tax.
“After the September 11, 2011 attacks, there was a dispute over the ‘war risk’ exclusion as respects acts of terrorism on airplanes. As the only CPCU and member of Congress who understood reinsurance, I was able to take the lead in working with industry to set up a federal reinsurance backstop so that planes could get back in the air,” he says.
He has also advocated reforms of the nation’s health care system to health coverage more affordable and more accessible. However he actively opposed Obamacare and still does. “Today, our work to repeal, defund, and replace the law continue,” he says..
He says he has worked to make government more conducive to growth and to ease regulation and simplify the tax code.
“Some of my greatest achievements have come within the work of the Appropriations Committee. Unlike most committees that can move legislation solely for messaging, we have to get our bills across the finish line,” he says. “That means holding true to your principles while finding enough common ground to reach consensus in a manner that can make it through the Senate and onto the Presidentπ’s desk regardless of what party is in power.”
He encourages others from the private sector to get involved in politics and thinks insurance professionals are particularly well-suited to serve.
“The more private sector experience in government the better,” he says. “Insurance has the added benefit of being involved in every industry and every facet of our lives which gives a great breadth of experience to those who work in the field.”
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