ATLANTA — The leading candidates in Georgia’s crowded Republican Senate primary are all claiming the pro-business mantle as they battle each other and chase conservative voters.
One of the front-runners, Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah, pitches his U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsement as proof of his commitment to the private sector, despite two decades on Capitol Hill. But another contender, wealthy businessman David Perdue, hangs his entire campaign on the argument that voters should elect a former corporate CEO instead of politicians like Kingston, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel or two other congressmen: Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey.
Handel tells her own private sector story, anchored by a brief stint running a local chamber of commerce in Georgia’s largest county. Gingrey, a six-term congressman, and Broun, who was elected in 2007, tout their work running private physician practices at various points in their careers.
It’s a key dynamic in one of the country’s most closely watched and fiercely fought election-year contests, which will help decide which party controls the Senate for the final two years of President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House.
“This race is going to be all about turnout,” Handel said Friday in Gainesville.
Next Tuesday’s seven-candidate GOP primary is certain send the top two vote finishers to a July 22 runoff, and the eventual nominee will almost certainly face Democratic favorite Michelle Nunn in November. A victory for Nunn, the daughter of former longtime Sen. Sam Nunn, would hand Democrats a once-unlikely pickup of retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss’ seat and dent GOP hopes of reaching the national six-seat gain needed for a majority.
But angling for the business mantle comes with risks in a race where runoff spots could come down to a few thousand votes.
Many verbal attacks are leveled at Perdue, who has spent at least $2.1 million of his own fortune on the primary. He drew criticism this week for telling a Georgia newspaper that solving the nation’s budget woes would take spending cuts and revenue increases. That sounded to some like “raising taxes.”