Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue, shown with his wife, Bonnie, made a fly-in into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Monday to make a final appeal to South Georgia voters before today’s primary runoff with Jack Kingston. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)
ALBANY — Republican U.S. Senate candidates David Perdue and Jack Kingston made fly-ins into Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Monday, their final trips before today’s GOP primary runoff elections. The two men are vying to replace outgoing long-time Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie.
“The decision in this race is very clear,” Perdue, a businessman who is making his first run at public office, said. “Our nation is in an economic crisis and we can only begin to dig out of this hole by not sending the same people to Washington who helped create it.
“If you are happy with the way things are going in Washington, then vote for my opponent.”
Kingston, who has represented the 1st Congressional District of Georgia in the U.S. House for 11 years, brought former Senate candidate Karen Handel with him. The former Georgia Secretary of State touted Kingston’s conservative credentials and experience.
“Georgia needs an effective conservative in the Senate, and having some experience is important,” Handel said. “We need a person who will look out for Georgia and we need to put our best foot forward. That man is Jack Kingston.”
In the May GOP primary, Perdue was the top vote-getter, garnering 30.6 percent of the vote to No. 2 Kingston’s 25.8 percent. Handel was third with just under 22 percent.
The winner today will face Democratic Party nominee Michelle Nunn in the Nov. 4 General Election. The winner of that election will begin a six-year term of office in the Senate in January.
With a low turnout projected at 8 percent for today’s runoff, carrying south Georgia is critical to Kingston. That’s a big reason why the candidate has made four trips to Albany over the past two months.
“I’ve spent more time in south Georgia than any other statewide candidate, regardless of the office,” Kingston said. “We believe it is important for south Georgia to continue to have a seat at the table in Washington.
“We need a senator who understands agriculture and the military. South Georgia was my ticket to the runoff and it will be my ticket to the nomination.”
Perdue also was aware of the low turnout projections.
“I am optimistic that more than 8 percent will turn out on Tuesday,” Perdue said. “I know we’ve been working hard to get people to the polls. The biggest question in my mind is, Can we get our people to turn out?”
Perdue was unfazed by Handel’s endorsement of his opponent.
“I don’t think political endorsements hold much sway,” Perdue said. “I’m focusing on this race and tomorrow. I am focusing on the economic crisis caused by this president and this Congress, and unfulfilled promises.”
As for Kingston, he could not help but note that Perdue has made just two trips to Albany.
“I’m just glad that he finally figured our where Albany is,” Kingston said.
Chambliss decided to not seek re-election this year.
According to figures released Monday by the office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp, early voting statewide for the runoff election — 159,152 ballots were cast — was about two-thirds of what it was for the May 20 primaries, when 239,281 Georgians voted early
The number of GOP ballots cast for today’s runoff — 121,678 — was down 17.8 percent from May, when 147,995 voters in Georgia cast early votes in the Republican primary. The drop was even larger on the Democratic side, with 36,677 early ballots cast in the runoff, a decline of 58.5 percent from the 88,316 Democratic votes cast early in that party’s May primary.
The only statewide race on the Democratic ballot today is for the nomination for state school superintendent. Valarie D. Wilson, who led the field of candidates in May, faces Alisha Thomas Morgan in that contest.
Likewise, GOP voters today will choose their nominee for state school chief, choosing between top primary vote-getter Michael L. Buck and Richard L. Woods.