In U.S. Senate runoff, the Chamber takes it on the chin

In 2002, upstart Sonny Perdue was shocked, baffled and outraged by the fact that a national political group known for reflexively endorsing Republicans instead decided to side with Democratic incumbent Gov. Roy Barnes.

When Perdue won, overturning the political status quo, the NRA found itself sitting in time-out.

Flash forward a dozen years. Sonny Perdue’s cousin David found himself on the outs with another national organization that he thought should have been well-satisfied with his business background.

Instead, the U.S. Chamber backed U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, who – after 22 years in D.C. – was a known commodity. The group poured $2.3 million into the race against Perdue – the most of any outside group dipping into the contest. A group flush from having its way in Mississippi last month, carrying U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran across the finish line.

Like his cousin before him, David Perdue began campaigning against the Chamber as one of those special interest groups in Washington that need to be reined in. He began talking about the need to reduce legal immigration into the U.S., a key Chamber concern. In a last round of TV ads, Perdue used the Chamber endorsement to question whether Kingston’s opposition to immigration reform was indeed sincere.

The Tweet of the night may have come from Kingston supporter Erick Erickson, the conservative talk radio host:

Outside of Jack Kingston himself, the U.S. Chamber became the biggest loser of the evening.

***

***

***

But Richard Woods, the Republican anti-Common Core candidate, appears to have beaten Mike Buck, who backed the initiative in the race for state school superintendent. Common Core has been a priority of both the U.S. Chamber and the Georgia Chamber. Valarie Wilson of DeKalb County, former head of the Georgia School Boards Association, beat Alisha Thomas Morgan on the Democratic side.

Another business-backed candidate, state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, was trounced by Mike Williams, who won 66 percent of the vote -- a defeat for the business-financed Georgia Coalition for Job Growth.

***

***

***

***

Top attraction on the Democratic side was the state school superintendent race, which drew 135,315 ballots. Total registered voters in Georgia: 4,933,572.

***

Kingston was able to boast of endorsement after GOP endorsement in the contest. One sign of Republican concern over last night's result: Perdue and Deal, who personally stayed out of the race, will gather this morning for a joint news conference.

When asked how he would entice Kingston's coalition - a web of elected officials and tea party types - into his fold, Perdue said he would appeal to the core of the GOP message: Economic opportunity, fiscal responsibility and limited government. And target that message squarely at Democrat Michelle Nunn.

Said Perdue:

He is also signaling a pivot away from the outsider message that powered him to a first place spot in the May primary and last night's victory. Instead, look for Perdue to tie Nunn to President Barack Obama, who polls poorly among Republicans and many independents, at every turn. On Tuesday, Perdue's message was that Democrats under Obama have a "failed record."

***

This choice tweet from Matt McGrath, Jason Carter's campaign manager, caught the eye of many a politico:

Kingston campaign manager Chris Crawford stuck by McLaughlin's work and said his internal polls for the campaign showed a neck-and-neck race.

“I would stand by John’s numbers,” Crawford said. “I think he did a good job.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
X