Former Dollar General CEO David Perdue came from well behind to defeat Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1) in the US Senate Republican run-off to score what most believe is an upset win for the GOP nomination. He now faces Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn, who won her own primary outright back on May 20.
With just over 480,000 people voting in the run-off contest, Perdue captured 51 percent of the vote. The contest see-sawed early, but Perdue’s dominance in the more populous northern part of the state provided a strong clue that he would prevail in the end. As in the primary election, Kingston ran very strong south of Interstate 16, thus taking virtually all of southern Georgia, but failed to make enough inroads in the central and northern geographic sectors with the exception of the extreme northwestern counties hugging the Tennessee border. Therefore, since both candidates were demonstrating regional strength the campaign became a numbers game, and Perdue’s region was simply larger.
Right after the primary, Kingston jumped out to the early advantage. He immediately moved right and successfully boxed Perdue away from the ideological mother lode for what would be a low turnout Republican Party electoral event. Furthermore, all of the defeated primary candidates – Representatives Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11), Paul Broun (R-GA-10) and former Secretary of State Karen Handel – endorsed the Savannah congressman, though Broun did so only in the waning days of the campaign. With all of this in his favor, Kingston established a substantial polling advantage, often posting double-digit leads.
But Perdue fought back and slowly gained momentum, attacking Kingston for being a creature of Washington and regarding spending votes associated with his position on the House Appropriations Committee. In the end, Kingston’s failure to crack Perdue’s advantage in the Atlanta metropolitan area proved to be his downfall. Though he never headed Kingston until Election Day, Perdue continued to gain political strength. His was a textbook case of peaking precisely on Election Day.
Kingston’s open congressional seat was also in a Republican run-off contest and here, too, each candidate was trying to prove that he was the most conservative.
Scoring a 54-46 percent win with just over 42,000 votes cast is state Sen. Buddy Carter, who finished first in the primary election. Oftentimes when first place finishers don’t clinch the nomination on the first vote, the second place qualifier unites the top candidate’s opponents. In this contest, Carter actually gained strength and was able to pull away from Tea Party-supported Dr. Bob Johnson.
Carter ran as a business owner – he owns three pharmacies – and community leader. He had served both as the mayor of Pooler, his home town, and a state senator. Johnson’s attacks on Carter for being a “liberal” apparently fell on deaf ears, as the constituency he long served clearly did not believe that pharmacist/office holder was anything but a conservative.
The new Republican nominee now faces Democratic run-off winner Brian Reese, a UPS manager and minister. Carter is the prohibitive favorite to carry what is a relatively reliable Republican southeastern Georgia CD. Though Reese scored an easy 63 percent win in the run-off, only 10,344 people voted in the Democratic contest.
In the seat Rep. Paul Broun is vacating for his unsuccessful Senate run, pastor, radio talk show host, and former congressional candidate Jody Hice scored a 54-46 percent victory over businessman Mike Collins, the son of former Rep. Mac Collins (R-GA-8), with just under 50,000 votes cast.
Where the Perdue and Carter victories could reasonably be considered more establishment Republican wins, the Tea Party conservatives came storming back in this contest. There is little doubt that Hice will join the Tea Party caucus within the Republican conference. Attorney Ken Dious won the Democratic nomination on May 20, but he will be a heavy underdog to Hice in this midterm election.
The least surprising finish of last evening came in the northwestern Georgia district, the seat Rep. Gingrey relinquished in order to launch his unsuccessful senatorial bid. With former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA-7) only scoring 26 percent in the primary election despite universal name identification, the run-off campaign was a mere formality.
With more than 51,000 people voting in the GOP secondary election, state Sen. Barry Loudermilk easily defeated Barr, 66-34 percent. Loudermilk gained key conservative support, such as that from the Club for Growth, and was able to isolate Barr on the libertarian wing of the party.
Loudermilk won more than the Republican nomination last night. Because no Democrat nor Independent filed to run, the new GOP nominee is now unopposed in the general election. Therefore, barring an unthinkable successful write-in effort from a yet-to-be-identified person, Loudermilk has won the congressional seat and will be sworn in as a member of the 114th Congress when January arrives.