Even though Republican United States Senate candidate John Kingston wasn’t born in Massachusetts (he’s a native of Connecticut), he has plenty of ties to the area, even before he moved to Winchester 20 years ago.
Kingston said during a recent phone interview that his father grew up in Watertown and his grandfather grew up in Everett. He, in fact, mentioned visiting Boston many times before choosing to attend Harvard Law School in 1991.
He must have fallen in love with the area, as he lived in both Somerville and Cambridge before settling down in Winchester. When asked about the town he now calls home, he had nothing but positive things to say.
“It’s a lovely town with wonderful people,” he remarked, adding that it’s been a great place to raise his four children.
He talked about the “good schools” and the “great experience” his children had, not to mention the “committed and compassionate” teachers, especially at Lincoln Elementary School.
“It was a classic neighborhood school,” he said when asked what made it so special. “It’s the kind of school you can walk to.”
Those young, Lincoln School students have now grown up, with two of them helping Kingston in his bid to unseat Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. His 19-year old son has been on the campaign trail and his daughter is based at the campaign headquarters in Woburn.
Even though he lives in Winchester and works out of an office in Lexington, he said he chose to base his headquarters in Woburn because it offered him more room to grow.
“I kind of outgrew the Lexington office,” he admitted, “and the campaign just needed more room.”
His new headquarters on Montvale Avenue gives him plenty of growing space as the campaign gets bigger (he already has “big teams of volunteers”) and the primary and general election get closer (the primary is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 4 and the general election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 6).
The new building is also more convenient, as it affords him an easy six-minute commute home, and more commercial, he acknowledged.
Price was most likely never an issue, as Kingston said that he’s already raised $3M for his campaign. (His Republican challengers, of which there could be several, have only raised 1/10th of that, he said. Right now, his opposition appears to be State Rep. from Whitman Geoff Diehl, Beth Lindstrom, Darius Mitchell, and Heidi Wellman. He may also face off against several candidates running as Independents, such as Shiva Ayyadurai, Joshua Ford and even Woburn resident John Devine. Devine most recently lost to State Rep. Jim Dwyer.)
Kingston said the big money will come later and he’ll probably need all the financial support he can get, especially if he’s successful in the September primary. Senator Warren has reportedly raised approximately $15M for her 2018 reelection bid. Back in 2012, when she first ran for office, she raised upwards of $40M.
However, Kingston may not be banking (no pun intended) on money to win this race. When asked why he thinks it’s time for Warren to step aside (or be moved aside), he felt that she was one of the main “dividers” in Washington. He thought voters were tired of the leadership in Washington not helping and not leading.
“We deserve better from our leadership,” he stressed. “We don’t need polarizing leaders who will divide us.”
The biggest question in Massachusetts is always whether or not a Republican candidate has a legitimate chance. But history has shown that a conservative can win here, most recent examples being Gov. Charlie Baker and former Gov. Mitt Romney, plus former Senator Scott Brown.
Kingston pointed out how much tougher it is for a Republican to win during a presidential election because more people (and more Democrats) come out to vote. However, mid-terms are different.
“There’s a history of Republican success during non-presidential elections,” Kingston pointed out.
The Winchester resident may have something else working in his favor, besides running during a non-presidential year: he is not a life-long politician. If residents are tired of the same-old career politicians, someone who has spent his life exploring other avenues may have a real shot. It worked for Donald Trump.
Kingston became motivated after the 2016 election (an election that seems to have either inspired people into action or angered them into no longer caring). He told a story about being out with his wife on Valentine’s Day last year during a romantic dinner and deciding at that time to bring up his desire to run for the US Senate. He knew it would be high risk and high reward. He also knew asking his wife at this particular time could end badly for him.
Thankfully, his wife got on board immediately. Even a couple days later when he brought the subject back up, his wife said she still supported his decision. She’s been so supportive that she’s been with him on the campaign trail.
This trail has taken him all over the state, from Pittsfield to the Cape. He said that while residents living in western Massachusetts are a little different than those living in the eastern part of the state - “they have somewhat of a different way of life” - everyone has a story to tell.
“It looks like a small state on the map, but it feels like a big state when you campaign,” Kingston remarked. “I’ve been able to hear some great stories all around the state.”
The Senate hopefully said that he received “tremendous” support from the start. He mentioned having 450 people at his campaign event, which he described as a lot for a first time candidate. He also mentioned traveling to 237 caucuses already.
“No one else could do that,” he said.
He might be right. As he’s raised 10 times more than any other Republican, he clearly has a leg up on the competition. Perhaps this is why the Republican candidate is already looking to the first Tuesday in November.
It’s not that he doesn’t take his primary challengers seriously; rather, he’s simply focused on the bigger prize. While his opponents will garner some support, Kingston ultimately feels as though he’s the only one who can unseat the incumbent.
“The primary will want someone electable,” he said about his chances. “I can work across the divide and I think voters will respond to that.”
He talked about having a diverse audience for his kickoff event. Fitting, as it will take more than just white conservatives to help elect the Winchester resident.
Kingston also noted, when asked about Republican support from the more established members of the party, that it would come later. He mentioned being old friends and speaking with Gov. Baker and Gov. Romney and believed they would be very supportive in the future.
While he’ll most likely need all the support he can get, Kingston will also need a strong message to present to voters. And in Massachusetts more than maybe anywhere, that message can’t be “I stand firmly behind the President.”
With Sen. Warren 100 percent opposed to almost everything Pres. Trump does, Kingston can’t simply stand on the opposite side of the fence and hope there are enough Trump supporters to push him over the goal line. Therefore, his message is one of unity.
“I will unite with anyone to do right and no one to do wrong,” he said, quoting orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. “I will work with anyone to help the people of Massachusetts.”
In politics, sometimes right and wrong can be relative terms. Sen. Warren has advocated for many things that half of America would claim are right and the other half wrong. It’ll be a fine line for Kingston to walk should he become successful in his Senate bid.
The Winchester resident, though, is undeterred.
“I’m buoyed by the conviction that I’m doing the right thing,” he said, adding that his faith is very important to him.
He also stated that he was aware of the cost of coming forward, of stepping into the public eye. However, he has a “fundamental concern” that Washington is broken. He wants to bring the best to Washington and work on immigration issues, taxes and health care.
When asked where he sees himself in the future, Kingston said that “I see myself commuting back and forth to Washington.”
He added: “I feel the energy and excitement. I’m more convinced and motivated than ever.”
He’s been running a general election campaign since day one, not because he doesn’t see his Republican opponents as legitimate challengers, but because he’s “ready for the big dance and Sen. Warren.”
“Don’t put your money, blood, sweat and passion into something unless you feel like you can win,” he offered.
If Sen. Warren isn’t paying attention, either because she’s too busy attacking the President or too busy trying to become President, Kingston felt he could steal some votes from frustrated residents. As Martha Coakley showed twice, once in her bid to become Senator and again in her bid to become Governor, just being a Democrat in Massachusetts doesn’t guarantee you anything. You have to earn it.
Kingston is hopeful he can earn voters’ trust and support come September and again in November.