GROVETOWN — U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston opened Saturday’s Republican Senate debate by calling the contest “an absolute street brawl.”
The feisty candidates seeking to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss proceeded to prove his point at the Columbia County Exhibition Center.
On the issues, the seven candidates mostly agreed: They’re against abortion, gun control, overregulation and immigration reform. So they threw elbows based on who was more opposed to those things.
Kingston, of Savannah, bragged about his A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association when compared with fellow Reps. Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta, who only have A’s. (Gingrey claimed erroneously that he, too, had an A-plus.)
Broun shot back that he’s the only candidate endorsed by the “no compromise” gun groups: Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights.
On abortion, Broun — without mentioning her by name — pointed to a Karen Handel-approved Fulton County budget that included funding for Planned Parenthood. Handel, who has said the money was a federal pass-through grant to a facility that did not perform abortions, had a high-profile battle with Planned Parenthood several years later in 2012.
At the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Handel reminded the audience, she found herself under fire from the left when the foundation decided to stop renewing its grants to Planned Parenthood, and Handel resigned under pressure.
Handel lumped her top foes together in one swipe when asked how to revive the Republican Party’s national prospects.
“Our messengers have become career politicians and millionaire elitists,” said Handel, of Roswell, Georgia’s former secretary of state.
Polls show several candidates bunched together with a lot of undecided voters ahead of the May 20 primary election, which is almost certain to produce a primary runoff in July, as it’s unlikely any of the seven Republicans will top 50 percent of the vote.