July 22nd, 2014
06:00 AM ET
8 years ago

Outsider beats insider in GOP primary runoff in key Senate race

updated at 8:00 am ET Wednesday

(CNN) - Businessman David Perdue won Tuesday's Republican Senate primary runoff in Georgia, narrowly edging out Rep. Jack Kingston.

Kingston told supporters Tuesday night that he called Perdue to concede and to congratulate his opponent on "a victory well fought."

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Perdue, a former CEO of Dollar General and Reebok, ran as a political outsider against Kingston, an 11-term congressman who represents coastal Georgia. Perdue will now face off in the general election against Democrat Michelle Nunn in the battle to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Democrats see Georgia as one of only two states where they hope to play offense in this year's battle for control of the Senate.

"Georgia Republicans have spoken," said Perdue in his victory speech.

"They're concerned about the mess in Washington like you and I are, and I believe they're looking for an alternative," said Perdue.

In his concession speech, Kingston vowed to help Perdue in the general election.

"Once we combine our two camps, we will absolutely be unstoppable. We will win in November. We will keep Georgia in the Republican column," Kingston said.

Runoff battle

Perdue and Kingston finished first and second in a seven candidate field in the May 20 GOP primary, beating out a bunch of more conservative candidates.

The campaign leading up to Tuesday's runoff became increasingly ugly, and personal, as the two candidates and their allies sharpened their attacks. In their one and only televised debate during the two month long runoff campaign, Perdue repeatedly blasted Kingston as part of the problem in Washington.

"This is a problem when you have an out of touch Congress, led by a career politician whose first priority is to get re-elected. This is a travesty," said Perdue, adding that "right now we are spending a third of what we should be spending as a country on all of our infrastructure. And because of that we're becoming less and less competitive around the world. On this congressman's watch over the last 22 years, we have lost our competitive edge against many parts of the world. And it's time to change that."

Kingston touted his commitment to his constituents in his coastal Georgia district and fired back at Perdue.

"Let me talk to you about being out of touch. I've come home every single weekend. I've had open mic town meetings. I work with people who disagree with me. David, your whole lifestyle is based in a different way. Now you have done well for yourself. But you live in a gated community, inside a gated community and have a gate at your house. How are you going to work with John Q. Public when they come up to you and have questions? I think being part of a public servant is being public and being a servant. Knowing who you're working for and being accessible to them is extremely important," Kingston said.

Perdue poured more than $3 million of his own money into his campaign. That helped him keep pace with Kingston, who began the race with a large war chest and dominated fundraising. Kingston also had the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which ran multiple ads backing the congressman.

'Amnesty' an issue

In his final television commercial, Perdue slammed both Kingston and the Chamber of Commerce over the hot-button issue of illegal immigration.

"Jack Kingston's pro-amnesty vote is bought and paid for. Kingston's largest backer who has pumped almost $3 million into Kingston TV ads is 100% openly pro-amnesty. Kingston now owes them big. Career politician Jack Kingston: backed by amnesty supporters. Wrong for Georgia. David Perdue never supported amnesty, and never will. Never," said the narrator in the Perdue spot.

The Chamber of Commerce supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year. That measure has floundered in the House, and Kingston has repeatedly said he would not vote for it.

The Chamber of Commerce quickly responded, saying Perdue's commercial was "his latest sign of desperation." And the Chamber went up with a last minute web ad on the eve of the runoff.

"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce stands up for American enterprise. We fight for jobs. So why is David Perdue attacking us? Well, he sought our endorsement several times but didn't get it. Now, losing and desperate, David is crying like a little baby," said the narrator in the spot.

The Chamber flexes its new political muscle

Meanwhile, Kingston - who opposed the massive federal stimulus package backed by Barack Obama early in his presidency to help jumpstart the economy after the 2008 recession - attacked Perdue for taking stimulus money for his company.

No tea party candidate

Perdue and Kingston beat out three more conservative candidates in the primary: Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. But while the runoff campaign lacked a tea party vs. mainstream GOP story line, it took on an insider vs. outsider theme, as most of the Georgia Republican establishment backed Kingston.

"The primary was complicated with multiple members of Congress and two people who had no Washington experience. The runoff devolved into a more classic, clear and competitive fight between a congressman and a businessman," Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, told CNN.

"Kingston had a voting record to be picked apart but Perdue had enough statements for Kingston to shoot at. The GOP nomination is very valuable in a state where Republicans should start with the advantage, so it's no surprise that the runoff become very bitter," Gonzales added.

The race also included some high profile surrogates. Perdue's first cousin, former two-term Georgia Gov. Sonny Purdue, appeared in Perdue commercials in the campaign's final week. And 2012 GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, voiced his support for Perdue in some radio spots.

Meanwhile football legend Herschel Walker, who won the Heisman Trophy while leading the University of Georgia Bulldogs, was the star of a Chamber of Commerce ad backing Kingston, a fellow UGA graduate.

Justice Department suspends most poll watching

November showdown

Nunn easily won the May Democratic primary, as she tries to follow in the footsteps of her father, former longtime Sen. Sam Nunn.

Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party). But in the midterms, the party is defending 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states.

Democrats see Georgia and Kentucky as the only two states where they hope to go on offensive in the battle for the Senate.

"Ahead of tonight's results in Georgia, it's clear that the long, expensive, and divisive runoff has pushed both Congressman Jack Kingston and David Perdue further right and exposed vulnerabilities that will lead to their defeat in the fall. As the Republicans have wasted time and resources battling it out, Michelle Nunn has built significant financial and organizational advantages that put her in the driver's seat heading into the general," wrote the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the Ending Spending Action Fund, a conservative outside group that's been very critical of the federal health care law, went up with a new TV commercial that attacks Nunn for supporting Obamacare and higher taxes.

Complete Coverage: 2014 Midterm Elections


Filed under: 2014 • Georgia • Senate
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. SteveInMN

    Republiban Weasels RENDING each others FLESH?


    July 22, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  2. Buckshotdaman

    While the idea of someone with actual business experience is attractive, I have yet to see anyone get into Congress and accomplish anything.

    July 22, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  3. OrmondGeorge

    Republicans: Dumb or Dumber.
    Subjugate the Working Class
    Destroy the environment
    Ship jobs overseas
    LIE LIE LIE (and so much more)
    And people still vote for them...

    July 22, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  4. Alan Mueller

    RINO vs RINO who cares?

    July 22, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  5. Silence DoGood

    When it is Dems vs. GOP, the GOP always points fingers about imaginary cheating and base behavior.
    But wow, GOP conservatives fighting teaches us all about being nasty and harsh in reality.
    The Georgia hate/slugfest is still going on: GOP 1, Conspiracy Theorists 0.

    July 22, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  6. Facts Be Known

    The fact of the matter is that people have to quickly come to their senses and realize that unless they are well-to-do, i.e. wealthy, they have no business voting Republican in any state. To do so greatly contributes to shooting themselves in the foot in the long run. Things do not change. Democrats Help the Middle Class. Republicans Help the Upper Class. End of story.

    July 22, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  7. grumpy0ldman

    So, Mr. Perdue says we have lost our competitive edge in the world. Tell us just how many of the products you sold at Reebok and Dollar General were made in this country? Yeah, that's what I thought.

    July 22, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  8. Smeagel4T

    Wait a minute... did I read that right? Somebody in the GOP knows that "infrastructure" isn't just that thing you vote against because Obama pointed out how it's crumbling? This is a classic example of the GOP. They know perfectly well what the right thing to do is, but they refuse to do it so long as a Democrat is in the White House. The minute there's a Republicans in the White House, everything Obama has said the country needs to do will be immediately pursued by the Republican president with the full support of every Republican in Congress.

    July 22, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  9. xophr

    Hmmm a candidate that is a liar and wants to take away health insurance versus a candidate that wants to take away health insurance and is a liar.


    July 22, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  10. Thatguy371

    Go to Youtube and enter Robert Greenwald vs. Jack Kingston to get an idea of what this guy is all about. And of course the fine folks in GA re-elected the dolt about a half dozen times. Then as for Purdue, ask him how many of his Dollar General employees have to get food stamps from the govt to get by because he wouldn't pay them a living wage. Yet he brags about turning the company around. Yeah, on OUR dime. Hopefully Michelle Nunn annihilates whichever of these 2 run against her. GA needs some common sense in D.C. like we now have with President Obama.

    July 22, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  11. Rosslaw

    The dim-witted Chamber of Commerce must be the most obtuse organization in the world. The economy always does better with a Democratic White House and Senate. What is it about 2008 with exploding deficits, a stock market in free fall, the near collapse of the economy altogether after two unpaid wars during which two tax cuts were effected to "support the troops", that the Chamber finds attractive?

    July 22, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  12. neastsider

    The baggers in Ga have a big problem deciding which swamp slug to vote for– clue– the one that the least slimeiest.

    July 22, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  13. Dave

    Republicans redefine what nasty means.

    July 22, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. Jackson

    "Let me talk to you about being out of touch. I've come home every single weekend. I've had open mic town meetings. I work with people who disagree with me. David, your whole lifestyle is based in a different way. Now you have done well for yourself. But you live in a gated community, inside a gated community and have a gate at your house. How are you going to work with John Q. Public when they come up to you and have questions? I think being part of a public servant is being public and being a servant. Knowing who you're working for and being accessible to them is extremely important," Kingston said.


    Wow, are these two arguing over which is less of a 1%'er? That's hysterical!

    July 22, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  15. Old, Crusty, Vet

    Is Michelle Nunn related to Sam Nunn, former U.S. Senator from GA? If so, she may be an excellent choice. I am an independent voter, fiscally conservative, & socially responsible. Never voted a straight ticket in my life, but tilt middle right, not extreme right.

    Neither party has done a good job in this Congress. Every once in a while the "other side" has some good ideas. Good ideas are not the property right of either side.

    Whether it is Nunn or Perdue, the old established Senator of 2 years needs to go. Every incumbent need to be removed this election & every election hereafter until recall is established into law.

    July 22, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  16. Tom

    The republicans are determined to put the USA back in the handbag to Hell.

    July 22, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  17. TSK

    Republicans are always the best choice for any country. Republicans care about God and country.

    Liberals, marxists, comminusts, politically-correct, pro-diversity, pro-multi-culturalism and pro-tolerant want to destroy America. They are against God.

    July 22, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  18. Robert Constant

    Two sides of the same coin

    July 22, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Nice. Elect both of them. One can read and one can write–sort of.

    July 22, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. jack

    no entertainment tops political theater

    July 22, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. FLUX

    Cat fights but no solutions for the country. The Republican Party just can't stop eating itself from the inside.

    July 22, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  22. Sniffit

    Derpy and Derpier.

    July 22, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  23. larry

    Either way.....Democrat loses.

    July 22, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  24. Raoul Duke, Doctor of Journalism

    Even in GOP Georgia, people are tired of watching their elected representatives helping out New Jersey politicians and voting to give Kansas a better break on wheat imports instead of getting us some damn jobs and boo-hooing about some fairy in California adopting a child. And seriously, anyone who tells you they are going to "Repeal Obamacare" is yanking your dingaling. Never going to happen, ask anyone with good sense. Get some jobs bills going. John Barrow works his tail off for veterans as a Democrat because the GOP ignores them, and he keeps winning. You guys start doing right or the Democrats will get your jobs.

    July 22, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  25. salty dog

    Nice, I'm going to ride the most awesome roller coasters, lay on the beach sipping margarita's, hot tub at night, but you two fellas rip each others throats out while I'm gone k? Thanks much!

    July 22, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
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