Georgia Republicans Choose David Perdue as Their Senate Candidate

JULY 22, 2014

David Perdue on Monday in Augusta, Ga. His victory in the runoff came after he finished first among seven contenders in the Republican primary for the Senate.CreditSara Caldwell/The Augusta Chronicle, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — After more than two months of intraparty fighting, David Perdue, a former chief executive of Dollar General, won Tuesday’s Republican runoff in Georgia to become his party’s Senate nominee, setting up one of the few contests where Democrats have hopes of taking a Republican-controlled seat in the midterm elections.

Mr. Perdue’s victory over Jack Kingston, an 11-term Georgia congressman, with just under 51 percent of the vote Tuesday evening upset both public polling predictions and conventional wisdom, which had Mr. Kingston slightly ahead, despite having finished second to Mr. Perdue in the May primary. Mr. Perdue will face in the general election the Democrat, Michelle Nunn, a former chief executive of the Points of Lights volunteer group and the daughter of Sam Nunn, the former Georgia senator.

“David Perdue is a strong nominee who I’m confident will be the next U.S. Senator from Georgia,” said Eric Tanenblatt, Mitt Romney’s 2012 Georgia finance chairman, who has organized a Senate campaign fund to benefit the Republican nominee. “He will bring a unique perspective to Washington at a time when the American people are craving for leadership.”

Georgia – U.S. Senate

David A. Perdue 245,493 50.9%
Jack Kingston 236,985 49.1
100% reporting 11:39 PM ET
Full Results »

Mr. Perdue finished first among seven contenders in the Republican primary in May —likely helped by his name recognition as the cousin of the former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue — and ultimately emerged as the leader, following the nasty and negative nine-week runoff, even as Mr. Kingston seemed to gain momentum with several key endorsements. Mr. Kingston picked up 49 percent of the vote. Republicans rallied behind Mr. Perdue on Tuesday night, though in the lead-up to the election many said they thought either man would have proved a formidable opponent to Ms. Nunn. There had been concerns in the crowded primary, however, that one of the far-right candidates — Representatives Paul Broun or Phil Gingrey, for instance — would emerge as the nominee, and would have been unable to handle the challenges of a general-election fight, in which candidates are typically forced to move toward the middle to attract independent voters.

According to the most recent Federal Election Commission financial disclosures, Mr. Perdue began the campaign with almost $800,000, though he most likely will have less as he heads into the general election. Ms. Nunn had nearly $3.7 million cash on hand at the end of the first quarter, and her campaign recently announced that she had raised nearly $3.5 million over the past three months, though her second-quarter financial filings are not yet available.
“Perdue has been writing himself checks and I assume he can still do that for the general,” said Jennifer E. Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Republicans quickly rallied behind Mr. Perdue after his victory.CreditSara Caldwell/The Augusta Chronicle, via Associated PressDemocrats are likely to use Mr. Perdue’s business background, as well as his penchant for inartful comments, to liken him to Mr. Romney, who during his 2012 presidential bid earned a reputation for being an out-of-touch “vulture capitalist.”

For example, Mr. Perdue was a chief executive for Pillowtex, a textile manufacturer that went bankrupt and ultimately closed in 2003, leaving 7,500 people unemployed, after Mr. Perdue had left the post.
Ms. Nunn, who faced little opposition in her own primary, has so far managed to emerge largely unscathed, using the luxury of the protracted Republican fight to raise money and build a volunteer network.

Jack Kingston picked up 49 percent of the vote.CreditDavid Goldman/Associated Press“The Nunn campaign has done a lot of work, so whoever wins will have to play catch-up,” Ms. Duffy said. “Now on the flip side, she’s going to have to start talking about issues and answering questions, but she starts the general off in pretty good shape.”

The Georgia Senate race, for the seat being vacated by Senator Saxby Chambliss, is also a place where the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s data-driven ground-game operation, known as the Bannock Street project, will be tested. African-Americans make up 30.1 percent of the state’s population, and Ms. Nunn will need to turn them out in November in order to win. Her challenge will be to appeal to moderate and independent voters, while also offering up enough energy and liberal rhetoric to excite her Democratic base enough to turn out.

Already, Democrats say that the project has eight field offices in Georgia and, working in conjunction with the Nunn campaign, has recruited 6,000 volunteers.

The race for Mr. Kingston’s own open House seat in Georgia’s First District also came to end Tuesday evening in a run-off between Buddy Carter — a state senator and pharmacist — and Bob Johnson, a surgeon and Army veteran who was running as a political outsider. Mr. Carter is expected to win easily in November against Brian Reese, the Democrat, who also won a run-off Tuesday.

Two other Georgia districts also held Republican run-offs Tuesday. In Georgia’s 10th District — the seat vacated by Mr. Broun during his unsuccessful run for Senate — Jody Hice, a Baptist minister and radio host, defeated Mike Collins, a trucking-company owner and son of the former Republican representative Mac Collins.

In Georgia’s 11th District, Barry Loudermilk, a state senator, handily defeated the former Republican representative Bob Barr. Mr. Barr, who left his party to run for president in 2008 as the Libertarian nominee, had returned to the Republican side to run again for Congress, but his comeback fell far short. There is no Democratic challenger for the seat, which was vacated by Mr. Gingrey during his unsuccessful Senate run.

Correction: July 22, 2014
A earlier version of this article misstated the name of a volunteer organization. It is Points of Light, not Point of Lights.