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Democratic primary for Congress: Eric Kingson believes experience makes him best candidate

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New York 24th congressional district democratic candidate Eric Kingson speaks during a debate Monday at the Time Warner Cable studios in Syracuse.

Democratic congressional candidate Eric Kingson has been praised for being a leading expert on aging issues, especially Social Security and the fight to preserve — and expand — the social insurance program. 

But he insists that his campaign is bigger than one issue. 

"I really like to help people," he said. "I like to be of service to others because I believe we're really here for others, not just for ourselves." 

Kingson, D-Manlius, is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 24th Congressional District race. He is facing two opponents for the party's nod — Colleen Deacon, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Steve Williams, a Syracuse-area attorney and U.S. Navy veteran. 

A professor at Syracuse University, Kingson has made a name for himself as a gerontologist. (A gerontologist focuses on aging issues.) He's written books on Social Security. He's served on federal commissions. And he founded Social Security works with Nancy Altman. 

Altman, who has known Kingson for more than 30 years, said she was among the group of people he spoke with before announcing his congressional bid. 

"I was very enthusiastic about him doing it because it seemed to me that it would highlight the issue, it would elevate the issue, it would be good for the issue and that he would be terrific as a representative in Congress," she said. 

After years of having a front-row seat to Kingson's work, Altman said one thing voters in central New York should know about him is that he's compassionate.

"He's gone into this issue because he really cares," she said. "He always emphasizes the values that are embodied in Social Security. He takes that very seriously. I think as an elected official he would have the highest standards, the highest integrity because that's the way he's lived his life." 

Beyond Social Security, Kingson said he wants to address poverty, which is affecting rural and urban areas throughout the 24th District. He also wants to make constituent service a top priority and focus on the region's infrastructure issues. 

He views economic inequality as more than just a policy discussion. He says it's about human dignity. 

"I look at our economy, which undermines dignity in many different ways," he said. "Wages needed to be raised." 

Kingson thinks his career sets him apart from his Democratic colleagues. As a leading voice on Social Security, he's been in a position to work with members of Congress to preserve the program. He takes credit for President Barack Obama's recent comments that Social Security should be expanded. 

Democratic voters in the 24th District will decide whether Kingson will be the party's nominee to face U.S. Rep. John Katko, a freshman Republican, in November. 

"I know how to work with other groups. I know how to fight," he said. "It's not bad to have someone who knows a hell of a lot about somethings and who really cares about people." 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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