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This Congressman's Heart-Wrenching Defeat Proves That Politicians Are Actually Human

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 4/03/2016 Jason Cherkis

WASHINGTON -- For nearly two months, we have given you a weekly episode of Candidate Confessional in which a recovering politician revisits a famous -- or infamous -- defeat. In the case of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), the loss can seem historic and cruel. For Wendy Davis, it can serve as a brutal learning experience.

This week’s Candidate Confessional with Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) includes a really moving election night story. Kingston had been a member of the House since 1993. In 2014, he decided to run for senate after Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) announced his retirement. Going into election night, conventional wisdom suggested the race was tight but that he’d defeat his opponent David Perdue in the Republican primary runoff by one or two percent.

When Kingston arrived at his election night party, he noticed that many of the 500 people in the ballroom weren't necessarily longtime supporters -- a sign that they thought he was going to win. It was hard not to feel a little optimistic.

But Kingston wanted to see the actual results coming out of various precincts. He headed to his campaign war room, where people were looking at the votes coming in. They were up by about 51 percent. The mood was jubilant. He asked a staffer to slow down the data scrolling so he could take a closer look.

“I started looking at that screen and I realized that the big, big precincts in the Atlanta area had not shown up and the ones that had, the trend wasn’t a good one. So I knew we were in trouble,” Kingston said. “I kind of extracted myself from the room.”

It was hard for Kingston to leave the war room with everyone stopping him to offer congratulations. Finally, he found a consultant and pulled him aside to discuss what he saw coming out of Atlanta.

“I said to my consultant, ‘It doesn’t look good,’” Kingston recalled. “He said ‘I know. You want me to explain it to you.’ And I said, ‘No, I’ve been in this game a long time. One thing I know how to do is read numbers and I think it’s over with.’ He said, ‘Yeah, it’s over.’”

No one else knew.

Kingston thought he should break the news to his family and the rest of his inner circle before they heard it from the media. And he knew he had to call his opponent and congratulate him.

“It’s devastating but you do know you got to look at it philosophically from the very, very beginning: I’m going to make this race and I might lose, and if I lose, I will never be chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the House; I’ll never go on another trip to see the troops in Afghanistan; I’ll never be able to host a town meeting,” Kingston said. “You put all that up for risk… I also knew that if I did lose I didn’t want to be, you know, crappy about it.”

Kingston returned to the war room. His family had gathered there, along with old classmates from junior high and high school -- friends who weren’t political at all. 

“It’s just hard looking at your wife, looking at your children,” Kingston said. “My son Jim, who had been involved in the campaign from the very beginning, he was sitting in the back of the room.” It was a classroom with desks. His had his head down. “It was just so hard for me to look at him.”

Listen to the podcast above, or download it on iTunes. And while you're there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. Make sure to tune in to next week's episode, when our guest will be Newt Gingrich, discussing his White House run in 2012.


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