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Wisdom for New Members of Congress

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By Wednesday, 18 November 2020 10:36 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Silence may be the best way former members of Congress can display our brilliance.

Afterall, we rarely get asked by current or newly elected members to offer our opinions.

Oh, but if only given the chance what a font of knowledge we would become with endless stories, axioms, and proverbs to impart upon the tender ears of newly elected members.

We could tell them what committees to get on, where to live, the best route to the airport, in which building to request an office. We could shame Google with our wisdom.

Yet every other November, in the even numbered years, we sit like a musty old book on a forgotten library shelf hoping someone will check us out and let us tell them exactly how we would do it.

Should this year be the year I am ready.

I would advise the following: 

First of all, get a staff you can trust. Savvy, brilliant, experienced Washington staffers are important, but only if you can trust them.

Staffers get to see your personal strengths and weaknesses, your family secrets, your political secrets your quirks and your glory. All of it.

Just taking a guess, but assuming you don’t want to star in a congressional reality show.

Be sure to get a good scheduler and immediately schedule family birthdays, anniversaries, plays, recitals, graduations, and other life events.

Large or small  do not let these slip through your hands.

They are far more important than any vote or constituent meeting. Congress can survive without your perfect attendance.

In January do a district thank you tour. You have already consolidated your base or you would not have gotten elected. Now, work on the swing voters.

Let people see you — especially elected officials. Charm the opposition.

Remember outside of Washington, D.C. politics is so insanely partisan.

Some of your freshman class will be deemed as interesting to the D.C. press.

It can be flattering to be in the national news, but like the siren's call — be careful.

To stay interesting, you have to say controversial things. Many of these can come back to haunt you. What really gets you re-elected is the local press. Always take care of them first. Return their phone calls before you launch your presidential ambitions.

Don’t listen to those who call codels "junkets."

Overseas travel is like stepping inside an encyclopedia. You will learn incredible things about the countries you are visiting as well as the United States of America.

However, never go anywhere where your constituents pay to vacation.

Also never return without a visit to our troops and believe me they are all over the place.

The other great byproduct of a codel is getting to know Members and developing lasting friendships. I know it sounds bizarre — but you can have friends in the opposite party.

Speaking of friendship, join a Bible study or a reflection group and join the gym.

You need to stay mentally and physically fit.

You do not have to hide the fact that there is a congressional gym.

You will understand that once you see it — it is refreshingly underwhelming.

Yet in my 22 years in Congress one of my greatest moments was when then-Speaker John Boehner named me "chairman of the gym."

Playing, mostly on the bench, for the Congressional baseball and football teams are memories I will cherish forever.

Lastly, support the institution.

Any jerk can go back home and criticize Congress but you cannot push its members in the ditch without getting lower yourself.

Stand up for the organization of which you belong.

Reform the parts that need to be reformed but like it or not you are now a creature of the swamp.

No one begged you to run for Congress. Millions upon millions of dollars were spent to secure each and every seat.

In the history of America there have only been 12,348 members of the House and Senate.

What an honor it is to be one of them.

Thank God, your family, constituents, and supporters for the opportunity — there is none other like it.

It will be a hectic, confusing, and wonder year. You do not have to re-invent the wheel.

Help is just a phone call away: 1-800-ForgottenFormerMember.

Former Congressman Jack Kingston served in Congress for 22 years representing Georgia's First Congressional District in Southeast Georgia from 1993 to 2015. He served as vice-chairman of the House Republican Conference, the sixth-ranking post among House Republicans, from 2002-2006. He also served on the powerful Appropriations Committee – chairing its Subcommittees on Agriculture and Labor, Health, and Human Services and Education. He also served on its Defense Subcommittee for many years. In Congress, Rep. Kingston earned a reputation as an effective legislator with a keen ability to resolve complex matters by reaching across the aisle. Prior to his service in Congress, Rep. Kingston was a member of the Georgia State Legislature and was vice-president of Palmer & Cay Insurance Services. He was the only Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) in Congress. Currently he works at international law and lobbying firm, Squire Patton Boggs. Read Congressman Kingston's Reports — More Here.

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No one begged you to run for Congress. Millions upon millions of dollars were spent to secure each and every seat. In the history of America there have only been 12,348 members of the House and Senate.
constituents, swing, voters
Wednesday, 18 November 2020 10:36 AM
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