Georgia businessman and political novice David Perdue won the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, in a close runoff race against U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga). Perdue won 51 to 49, by just over 8,000 votes. Perdue will now face Democrat Michelle Nunn in the general election on November 4th.
The results of the election are a bit of a surprise and will certainly shake up the Georgia Republican establishment. The last two major polls out of Georgia, from InsiderAdvantage and Public Policy Polling, were showing Kingston, who’s been in Georgia politics for three decades, with a growing lead of five and six points, just a few days before the election. This is Perdue’s first try in politics.
Kingston received quite a few high profile endorsements from the local and Washington GOP political elites, such as the former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and conservative pundits such as radio talk show host and FOX News contributor Erick Erickson.
Interestingly, a lot of Kingston’s supporters are also backing Georgia Governor Nathan Deal in his increasingly difficult reelection bid. The state Republican establishment certainly must be feeling the heat after Tuesday’s results.
Kingston and his allies also outspent Perdue in TV advertisement by $800,000.
Clearly, all of that fell short against Perdue’s argument that Kingston has been in the game for too long with too little to show for it. Indeed, the congressman first won an election for Georgia House of Representatives in 1984, and moved on to the U.S. House in 1993, now serving his 11th term. Considering the low congressional approval ratings it shouldn’t be surprising that voters would rather give a newcomer a shot, over a career politician.
Perdue’s win also illustrates quite well that endorsements are not very meaningful in elections after all. As much as Erickson wants to blame Chamber of Commerce endorsement of Kingston as a reason for his loss, the fact remains that Erickson provided Kingston with free daily two-hour advertisement for several months now (on and off). In addition, the congressman had Handel campaign for him and her support base is in metro Atlanta, the area that ended up going for Perdue (although by a slim margin) ensuring his win.
The U.S. Senate seat will be vacated by retiring Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga) who, according to Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Daniel Malloy, said this about the election results: “Perdue is a strong leader with a proven business record, who will come to Washington with fresh ideas and a passion for solutions.”