- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2014

The lineup for one of the most anticipated races of the 2014 election season will take form Tuesday in Georgia when Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue square off in a hotly-contested primary runoff.

The winner will take on Michelle Nunn, a prized Democrat recruit who represents one of the party’s best bets of capturing a Republican held Senate seat in its bid to prevent the GOP from winning control of the chamber.

Mr. Kingston, an 11-term congressman, has painted Mr. Perdue as an out of touch rich guy in the race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

“Your whole lifestyle is based in a different way,” Mr. Kingston told Mr. Perdue in their lone debate. “You live inside a gate inside a gated community with a gate on your house.”

And Mr. Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General and Reebok, has countered that Mr. Kingston is a creature of Washington.

“Folks, the congressman has been in Washington for 22 years,” said Mr. Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue. “The decision in this race is very simple: If you like what is going on in Washington, then vote for my opponent.”

SEE ALSO: GA, KY primaries key to GOP control of Senate

Mr. Kingston has held a steady lead in the polls since the seven-way May primary that didn’t produce a winner, and has the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as several top national and statewide GOP officials, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Secretary of State Karen C. Handel, who finished third in the GOP primary after winning the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Mr. Kingston also stands to benefit from the runoff race for his House seat in southeast Georgia’s 1st Congressional District, where state Sen. Buddy Carter faces Bob Johnson, another tea party favorite who also received Mrs. Palin’s endorsement.

Republican analysts say the congressional race could help Mr. Kingston by driving up turnout in his political backyard, which could be important after his struggles in the voter rich metropolitan Atlanta during the primary.

“Right now, Kingston is in the lead,” said David Johnson, a Georgia-based GOP strategist. “Perdue has really been unable to get any kind of momentum going.”

An InsiderAdvantage poll released last week showed that Mr. Kingston held a 46 percent to 41 percent lead over Mr. Perdue among likely GOP primary voters. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, and showed that 13 percent of voters were undecided.

Political analysts said that it is too early to write off Mr. Perdue because turnout is unpredictable in runoff races.

“It’s close enough that we shouldn’t be too surprised if Perdue ends up winning,” said Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Republicans said that could help explain why Mr. Kingston has refused to say whether he supports impeaching President Obama.

Mr. Perdue has suggested he would support impeachment if Mr. Obama’s offenses were “egregious enough.”

Mr. Johnson said Mr. Kingston is being politically savvy, positioning himself for a general election showdown with Ms. Nunn.

“I think that he is not going to take a solid stand one way or the other right now because he feels at this point anything he says regarding impeachment, Michelle Nunn, is going to turn it around [on him] at the same point,” Mr. Johnson said. “He doesn’t really want to antagonize tea party movement, who favors impeachment”

For her part, Ms. Nunn, the daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and who served as president of George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation, has been bankrolling cash.

Over the first three months of the year, she pulled in $3.45 million — outpacing Mr. Kingston and Mr. Perdue.

Democrats are optimistic about Ms. Nunn’s chances.

“There’s a simple formula for winning as a Democrat in Georgia: project moderation, raise lots of cash, and catch a break with a vulnerable opponent — and Michelle Nunn’s got all three in spades,” said Christy Setzer. “She’s an independent with more ties to the Bushes than the Obamas, she’s got a family name that resonates as moderate and independent, and her Republican opponents have shown serious problems on the trail. I wouldn’t be surprised if more polls show her ahead going into November.”

Georgia Republicans will cast votes in a total of three GOP runoff races for three House seats Tuesday night, including in the 11th Congressional District, where former Rep. Bob Barr is angling to make a political comeback.

Mr. Barr, who led the charge to impeach President Bill Clinton and was the 2008 Libertarian presidential nominee, faces off against former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, who has the support of Mrs. Palin and tea party aligned groups.

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