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Despite campaign’s claims, Kingston fails to set Savannah fundraising record

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Rep. Jack KingstonThe Senate campaign of Rep. Jack Kingston said Monday the candidate had raised $270,000 at a hometown reception over the weekend and claimed the considerable haul represented a “new fundraising record for an event in Savannah.”

And that’s when the Republican contest assumed hues of the Clinton’s impeachment hearing and the former president’s infamous exploration of the precise definition of a two-letter word.

At issue is a Sept. 2006 Republican fundraiser at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler that grossed $100,000 more in contribution’s than Kingston’s kickoff reception.

The event, headlined by another former president, George W. Bush, benefitted the unsuccessful congressional campaign of Max Burns. It raised $375,000, according to a contemporary report by the Savannah Morning News.

The Kingston release specified the campaign set a new record for an event held “in Savannah,” but some of the congressman’s Republican critics say the coastal gem extends beyond city proper lines: the Mighty Eighth museum, like Savannah, resides in Kingston’s House district and number crunchers in the federal and state governments consider Pooler part of the Savannah Metropolitan Statistical Area.

A Kingston spokesman said the campaign wouldn’t indulge in the Pooler-as-Savannah discussion, instead saying the candidate was focused on tangible campaign metrics — like money.

“We are proud of our Savannah event, but we will leave which fundraiser counts toward what record for others to decide,” Kingston press secretary Chris Crawford told Tipsheet. “Jack is focused on raising the resources necessary to compete in this race.”

But even as aides declined the opportunity to play mapmaker, Kingston’s defenders outside the campaign insisted the release was accurate.

“The Burns event was held in Pooler–which is to say, you know, not Savannah,” one Republican who attended the Kingston reception told Tipsheet by phone. “This is a pretty shallow attempt by Jack’s rivals to diminish what is an otherwise impressive take.”

Still, Kingston’s critics contend the congressman inflated his fundraising foray to mislead voters.

“Saying ‘second-biggest take since 2006′ wouldn’t make for as juicy a kickoff headline, but this is another attempt by Kingston to reinvent himself,” one Republican operative who asked to remain anonymous told Tipsheet.

Kingston, in a letter to donors last month, said he hoped to raise $5 million before the close of the primary season.

UPDATE: Kingston failed to set a new record or even draw near to the existing one, set in 2008 by then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

McCain, having just sewn up his party’s White House nomination, held a reception at the Savannah Marriot Riverfront that raked in “well in excess of $400,000,” according to one of the event’s organizers.

Whether or not the Kingston campaign recognizes Pooler as part of the greater Savannah area, there’s little doubt that the city’s historic downtown district qualifies.

- James Richardson