July 22nd, 2014
06:00 AM ET
7 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. Tampa Tim

    Looks like the republicans should have "none of the above" running.

    July 22, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  2. Tampa Tim

    This run off boils down to which republican candidate Georgians want who will always vote against Georgians' best interests.

    July 22, 2014 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  3. salty dog

    Oddly enough, I agree with both of them, neither is a good choice.

    July 22, 2014 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  4. salty dog

    Who to choose , the big snake,, or the little snake .

    July 22, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  5. Anonymous

    I love this GOP mud slinging. First in Mississippi and now in South KaKalaKi. The battle for who is more confederate rages on.

    July 22, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    "A nasty race has turned even nastier in the run up to the runoff."
    Mitt Romney tried to do exactly that. He released an extremely misleading ad about a Jeep plant, which he had claimed was closing and moving to China because of Pres. Obama's economic policies. The ad was thoroughly proven by the CEO of the company himself, because he knew the negative publicity would hurt sales. But, the Romney campaign chose to stick to their incorrect version of events, anyway.

    Romney had lied to the entire country. Mitt was caught in his lie, never corrected himself, and continued to push the same lie on the American people. And, Republicans do not understand why they lost in 2012? Romney blamed his loss on "free stuff." Karl Rove invented a new phrase for the English language, "going Rove." The right wing has come up with one conspiracy explanation after another. None of them fit the facts, which were America didn't trust a Republican, particularly one who was so obviously lying to them with a straight face.

    July 22, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    "These campaigns have been overwhelmingly negative, with attacks on each other, and I think that depresses turnout," Black added."

    Nearly ALL red state campaigns seem to be overwhelmingly negative with attacks on each other. Not to worry, though. CNN is always happy to oblige the RNC by throwing Obama to the wolves as well.

    July 22, 2014 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  8. maximusvad

    The more evil one is bound to win....it's how the GOP rolls.....who would Jesus vote for ?

    July 22, 2014 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  9. Independant Voter

    So much for Reagan's 11th Commandment. When they start eating their own, that is when you know the GOP has lost its way. They are losing the moderates and eventually their Party will implode and split in two. Their obstructionism will cost them in November.

    The GOP is going to get a big surprise when the DEMs turn out this November like its a Presidential Election.

    July 22, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  10. Bill from GA

    "two-term Georgia Gov. Sonny Purdue, appeared in Perdue commercials"
    "football legend Herschel Walker ...starred in a ...ad backing Kingston"

    Let's see, do I take the word of ex crooked governor, or an ex football star??

    Ah, dang, I can't vote in the repub primary runoff.

    Perdue seems to be the bigger liar of the two, and the biggest phoney and hypocrite.
    From the article: " Perdue has poured more than $3 million of his own money into his campaign. "
    Yet he runs an ad claiming Kingston is trying to buy the election.

    But overall, the campaign has been hilarious. Makes me look forward to 2016, when repub Prez-wannabees start the mud slinging.

    Wanna bet that by the end of the week, these two are bosom buddies??

    For the record, I support Michelle Nunn. Democrat.

    July 22, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  11. mutantsubhuman

    "Democrats see Georgia and Kentucky as the only two states where they hope to go on offensive in the battle for the Senate." – I thought the Democrats were always offensive.

    July 22, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  12. Melba Isom

    Lamar's opponent is so aggressive that even if Joe Carr does not win the primary the Democrat running against Lamar will simply need to beef up Joe Carr's attack adds. If Joe Carr wins the republican primary I think the mud slinging will do him in. Should be very interesting.

    July 22, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  13. really

    Do I vote for the Camry or the Camry?

    July 22, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  14. Lizzie

    Tampa Tim
    Looks like the republicans should have "none of the above" running.
    -Nevada already has it, and most voted in the democratic primary, NONE of the above

    July 22, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  15. Michele

    I never vote for anyone endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce. They're shills for the 1%.

    July 22, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  16. guest

    Nearly ALL red state campaigns seem to be overwhelmingly negative with attacks on each other. Not to worry, though. CNN is always happy to oblige the RNC by throwing Obama to the wolves as well.


    They are changing rules as fast as possible to try and limit america's exposure to them. They are slinging mud faster than rove oreilly and limbaugh can paint happy paictures of the process.

    July 22, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  17. Manichism

    They're politicians. Why is this surprising? They were born to sling mud. If they had fangs they'd be snakes.

    July 22, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  18. TCinCNJ

    So a former CEO that is spending at least $3 million of his own money doesn't think THAT is part of the problem? And yeah, he is really in touch I am, sure. In touch with his foreign bankers,.

    July 22, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  19. Larry38363

    There is nothing left of the Republican Party but hate and miss-trust not only among themselves but with their constituents! Come on people, let this party die and let's move on without all of the extreme right wing balderdash! It's time for REAL Americans to take this country back!

    July 22, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  20. Greg

    Extremist vs extremist. Not a big fan of Ronald Reagan but these idiots quote and use his name every chance they get but if he was alive today he wouldn't stand a chance in this party. The GOP is officially the Tealiban. Bunch of corporate anti-American terrorist trying to turn this country into an Oligarchy.

    July 22, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  21. Raoul Duke, Doctor of Journalism

    "Sonny" Perdue was a slack governor, so the name "Perdue" isn't filling us with joy. Jack "I drive a beat-up car" Kingston is as elitist as any of the other rich people who have been pushing us around, and he's got that horrible nasty smirk on his face all the time. On the other hand, Georgians trusted Sam Nunn for years, and his daughter knows how to get things done. Voters in Georgia do what they are told by their bosses, but this might be the year some of them think for themselves and hang both Perdue and Kingston from a pecan tree.

    July 22, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Tampa Tim

    Looks like the republicans should have "none of the above" running.
    Ahem. I think you might really mean Republicans should have "other" running, because that's who always seems to be leading in the polls. BTW, they already have "none of the above" running in almost every race.

    July 22, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  23. Charles

    They don't have any ideas so they just attack like a rabid dog.

    July 22, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  24. As if

    I for one think this shakeup is healthy. Whether it is mainstream vs Tea Party or Insider vs Outsider, or Moderatate vs Conservative, we in the US can vote for what we want and we have a choice. Personally I think the career politician who is beholden to special interests and who has spent us into oblivion OF BOTH PARTIES needs to go, and so I welcome the chance to change things up.

    July 22, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  25. Rich/Illinois

    Why is it that political races have to turn nasty? Why can't these clowns just focus on the issues? The best people don't want to run because of all of the mudslinging and twisting of words. This has to stop. We need real people to run and not career politicians. Until we all have enough courage and become informed enough, we're just going to keep sliding into this cesspool we've created.

    July 22, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
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