Observers keep close tabs on Senate race

From the The Brunswick News

Political observers are closely watching the race the U.S. Senate in Georgia to see who represents Georgia in the U.S. Senate.

In a close race Tuesday, political newcomer and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue, a Sea Island resident, defeated 22-year veteran politician U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, to earn the party's nomination to succeed Sen. Saxby Chambliss when he retires at the end of the year.

Perdue goes on to face Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in November.

The prospects of Democrats winning a Senate seat in the staunchly conservative state are tantalizing for Nunn and her party as they defend their Senate majority.

Perdue is running as a Washington outsider and has the firepower of his own wealth behind him, having sunk at least $3 million of his own money into winning the GOP nomination against a long-serving congressman whose endorsements included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Kingston was heavily supported in Coastal Georgia and by many party leaders in the state, including former gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel, and former opponents in the May 20 primary, U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey, R-11, and Paul Broun, R-10.

To many it looked like he might have had the race wrapped up.

It wasn't to be. Kingston received 237,196 votes, or 49.1 percent of the vote, to Perdue's 245,726 votes, or 50.9 percent.

"I admit some surprise that Kingston lost his Senate bid," said Tony Wege, a professor of political science at the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick. "I think the advantage in the Senate race now goes to the Democrats, in that it makes it somewhat more likely that Nunn may squeak out a victory. While Georgia is a deep red state, that is not the only issue that is relevant."

Starting with the May 20 Republican Primary, Perdue dispatched three sitting congressmen to claim the nomination, crafting a singular message of being an outsider with the business sense needed to tackle the nation's fiscal problems.

"I've never run for anything in my life. I'm humbled," Perdue told supporters gathered at a hotel in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. "With my business career, I will prosecute the failed record of the last six years of (President) Barack Obama. This fall, we're going to have a clear choice."

The win marked the end of a bruising, nine-week GOP runoff in which Perdue hammered Kingston as a career politician for his 11 terms in Washington, while Kingston argued voters couldn't trust a self-proclaimed outsider to do what he says he'll do. In the end, voters decided change was needed and went with the political newcomer, whose cousin is former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., is considered among the top Democratic recruits in the country and one of the best hopes for Democrats to keep control of the Senate for the last two years of Obama's term. Republicans need to gain six seats for the majority and cannot afford to lose the Georgia seat.

The race will shape up largely as two outsiders battling for moderate and independent voters in a state that has voted Republican in recent years, with Perdue looking to lay blame for the nation's problems with Democrats in Washington and Nunn emphasizing her independence and commitment to doing what is right. Millions of dollars in outside money is expected to pour in.

"Kingston was an experienced politician and although being seen as a 'career politician' is not popular with the public, it also means that you are not an amateur and do not make political amateur mistakes," Wege said. "This sets the fall Senate race up with two political neophytes -- giving Ms. Nunn an advantage. Instead of running against an experienced opponent like Mr. Kingston, we will see a race where Ms. Nunn will contest the seat against another inexperienced politician in Mr. Purdue.

"That means that both of them have a likelihood of making amateur mistakes in the campaign and makes it a much closer race than it otherwise would have been."

Nunn's ads have so far focused on introducing her to voters and emphasizing her experience as CEO of the large volunteer organization Points of Light, which was founded by former President George H.W. Bush. Nunn has looked to lay blame with both parties for gridlock in Washington.

"People are awfully tired of the political atmosphere today and what they perceive as a Washington that is just not up to governing, and not willing to put aside party differences and focusing on playing games versus actually solving problems that make a difference for people," Nunn said in an interview.

Immediate challenges for Perdue will be to quickly raise money and rally support among the GOP establishment, which had largely backed Kingston.

For his part, Kingston, whose two decades in Congress will end in December, pledged to work to get Perdue elected.

While Perdue and Kingston had spent more than $11 million combined on the race, Nunn was able to focus on fundraising and stockpiling her cash for the fall campaign. Nunn was expected to hit the road Wednesday, launching a four-day campaign tour.

Meanwhile, the Georgia gubernatorial race continues to garner interest. Incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal and his opponent, Jason Carter, have been at odds over accusations the governor's staff improperly influenced the state ethics commission to put a stop to an investigation of Deal's behavior during his 2010 campaign. Recent campaign filings and polls show Deal trailing behind Carter, the grandson of President Jimmy Carter, though Wege said Deal's political experience could still work to his advantage.

"While Carter has run a really good race for an amateur and has raised serious money, Deal is still a good politician in a red state strongly predisposed to the Republican party," Wege said. "What may trip Deal up is his ethics difficulties."

Wege said there is certainly a possibility for some surprises in the general election. The 400,000 Georgians now insured under Obamacare might play a part, Wege said, though it all boils down to who shows up at the polls, and how many.

Release Date: 7/24/2014
Source: The Brunswick News

By The Brunswick News and Associated Press