Wealthy businessman and Republican donor John Kingston formally announced his US Senate campaign on Wednesday, blaming US Senator Elizabeth Warren for serving as a central cause of the partisan rancor in Washington.
Vying in a four-way primary for the GOP nomination to take on Warren next year, Kingston has already injected $3 million of his own money into the campaign, putting him at the top of the field in campaign financing.
Speaking Wednesday night at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate, a tribute honoring one of the state’s most famous Democrats, Kingston said he favored smaller government and lower taxes, free enterprise, and fiscal responsibility.
But he saved his sharpest words for Warren.
“The Senate isn’t going to change unless we elect senators that adhere to the timeless principles that guided the great Massachusetts leaders of the past: bipartisanship, results, and consideration of the greater good,” Kingston said.
“If you enjoy the name-calling and the bickering she encourages, then by all means, you should vote for her and send her back to Washington,” Kingston said of Warren. “But if you want a fresh voice and a new approach then join with me and join this cause.”
In response, Warren campaign spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said in an e-mail, “Senator Warren is taking nothing for granted as she builds a strong grass-roots campaign across Massachusetts. And she will continue her work in the US Senate standing up for working families against powerful corporate interests.”
Kingston’s campaign said the choice of the institute as the setting for his launch was symbolic of Kingston’s hopes to compete for Democratic votes, and of his hopes to return the Senate to a time when bipartisanship received greater weight.
The Rev. Ray Hammond, the prominent pastor of Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain, and state Senator Ryan Fattman, a Webster Republican, spoke before Kingston.
The launch drew an unusually ethnically diverse crowd for a statewide Republican candidate’s event, which tend to skew toward heavily white, often older audiences.
Several hundred people filled most of the seats in the institute’s mock Senate chamber.
Kingston’s wife, Jean Yih Kingston, said her husband had first broached the idea of a Senate run on Valentine’s Day, saying she had “chuckled with my friends about the timing of this conversation.”
But, she said, she has enthusiastically backed the effort, calling Kingston “a game-changer, and that’s exactly what this country needs right now.”
The GOP has so far fielded four candidates. Along with Kingston, entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai, state Representative Geoff Diehl, and longtime party operative Beth Lindstrom are running.
‘The Senate isn’t going to change unless we elect senators that adhere to the timeless principles that guided the great Massachusetts leaders of the past.’
Entering a party atmosphere that has been charged by friction between the more moderate, establishment wing and the more conservative wing that gave Donald Trump a victory in the state’s primary last year, Kingston threw a sop toward the middle.
“To the independents of Massachusetts, I share your frustration with the extremists on both sides,” he said. “You chose independence, to support the leader who makes the most sense for you and your values. I’m that candidate.”
Kingston reportedly urged Lindstrom to drop out of the race in exchange for him providing her with financial support if she ran for a US House seat next year or the Senate in 2020 against Democratic US Senator Edward J. Markey.
Kingston’s campaign this week denied that he made such an offer. If it had, Kingston could have run afoul of state law prohibiting candidates from giving other candidates anything of value in exchange for not running in the same race.
“That was not part of the conversation that was had,” Kingston spokesman Jon Conradi told the Globe on Tuesday.Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JOSReports.