- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Businessman David Perdue won the Georgia Senate Republican primary runoff race, advancing to the general election where he will square off against Democrat Michelle Nunn in one of the marquee races of the 2014 Midterm Elections that could tilt control of the upper chamber.

Mr. Perdue, former CEO of Dollar General and Reebok, cast himself as a Washington outsider. He was declared the winner roughly four hours after polls closed, narrowly defeating Rep. Jack Kingston — an 11-term congressman who was endorsed by the the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve never run for anything in my life,” Mr. Perdue told supporters at his victory night party. “I’m humbled.”

With 100 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, had received 50.9 percent of the vote, compared to 49.1 percent for Mr. Kingston.

Shortly after the race was called, Mr. Kingston said via Twitter that the party must rally behind Mr. Perdue.

“We need to unite to defeat Nunn in November. The fight for conservative values is not over,” Mr. Kingston said.

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Voters also headed to the polls to cast ballots in three House runoff races for seats that Mr. Kingston and fellow Republican Reps. Paul C. Broun and Phil Gingrey gave up to seek the GOP nomination for Senate.

Former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, a tea party favorite, cut former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr’s political comeback short, handily defeating him in the race for the GOP nod in the 11th Congressional District.

In the 1st Congressional District, Baptist pastor Jody Hice defeated Mike Collins, and state Sen. Buddy Carter was leading surgeon Bob Johnson in the 1st Congressional District.

The winners of the three GOP primary races are expected to capture the seats in the November election.

But the outcome of the general election race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss is more in doubt, thanks to Mrs. Nunn — daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn — who, to the delight of Democrats, stepped down from her leadership post at George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation to seek the seat.

Since then, Mrs. Nunn easily won the Democratic nomination and has emerged as a fundraising powerhouse. Over the last three months, she raised $3.45 million, besting both of her possible GOP rivals. Mr. Perdue, though, has shown he is willing to put millions into his campaign.

Libertarian Amanda Swafford also is running in the general election.

Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report said the general election race is a toss-up.

“The reality is that Nunn has gotten a big head start on money and organization,” Ms. Duffy said. “She has been a candidate for a year and she hasn’t gotten a whole lot of criticism, whereas the Republican is going to have picked up some negatives from the primary and the runoff race. Whoever is going to be the Republican nominee will have some catching up to do.”

It is among about a dozen contests that will help decide whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Democratic leadership team continue to call the shots in the Senate during Mr. Obama’s final two years in The White House.

Republicans need to pick up six net seats to flip control of the Senate, and a loss in Georgia could torpedo their chances of doing so.

“Republicans have to hold Georgia to have their best shot at taking control of the Senate,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

Heading into the GOP primary, Democrats hoped that Republicans would nominate one of the more conservative candidates — either Mr. Broun or Mr. Gingrey — in the crowded May 20 primary. But Mr. Perdue and Mr. Kingston emerged as the top two vote-getters and advanced to the two-person runoff race.

Still, Democrats see the Senate races in Georgia and Kentucky — where Alison Lundergan Grimes is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — as their best bets of picking up a GOP-held seat on Election Day.

The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls shows that Mr. McConnell holds a slim lead in Kentucky, while Ms. Nunn is running neck and neck with Mr. Perdue in Georgia.

Mr. Gonzales called Ms. Nunn a “very credible candidate” but said the jury is still out on how she will perform in the general election because she is untested.

“We don’t know yet how she will hold up to increased scrutiny and criticism,” Mr. Gonzales said. “She has had the luxury of running on her own basically so far. She has been able to say whatever she says without a lot of pushback.”

Republicans say that Ms. Nunn also could get a boost from the ongoing ethics investigation into Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who is being challenged in the fall by Democrat Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

But they are confident that Mr. Perdue will win in part because of blowback against President Obama and his signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

“He is a major drag on Nunn,” said David Johnson, a Georgia-based GOP strategist. “That is the one thing going for all these Republican candidates, because you can tie the Democrats to Barack Obama … and among white voters, Obama is lethal.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, meanwhile, is looking to fire up its base through the “Bannock Street project,” which aims to turn out the single women, minorities and young voters that have played a major role in presidential contests but sat out midterm elections.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, congratulated Mr. Perdue on his win, saying his private sector experience will be put to good use in Washington.

David Perdue is a stark contrast to President Obama and Harry Reid’s ‘top recruit’ Michelle Nunn, who repeatedly refuses to take a stand on the issues including Obamacare,” Mr. Moran said. “David’s momentum will force Nunn to stop hiding and start answering the tough questions that she’s ducked up until now.”

Guy Cecil, the executive director of the DSCC, welcomed Mr. Perdue to the general election by painting him as another rich white guy who is cut from the same cloth as unsuccessful 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

David Perdue has spent his career tearing apart companies and communities by slashing thousands of jobs in Georgia and across the country and outsourcing jobs to Asia, while walking away with millions for himself,” Mr. Cecil said.” It’s clear multimillionaire David Perdue is only looking out for himself — his shady business dealings have left companies billions in debt and bankrupt while leaving thousands jobless.”

This story is based in part on wire reports.

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