Georgia’s U.S. Senate hopefuls used their final debate Sunday to counter attacks made against them throughout their bruising, expensive campaign.
“No,” Republican David Perdue said when asked if he outsourced jobs in his career.
“I have differences with this president,” Democrat Michelle Nunn said, after being called a “rubber stamp” for Barack Obama.
The debate aired by Channel 2 Action News had much of the same thrust-and-parry as prior clashes, with a touch of weariness at the end of a campaign that has stretched for nearly two years since Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss announced his retirement.
The tight race could go for another nine weeks in a runoff if Libertarian Amanda Swafford captures enough of the vote to keep Nunn and Perdue blow the critical 50 percent mark on Tuesday.
Swafford said she is the “alternative in this race for someone who wants to stand up for most Georgians who want to have more control over their own lives and the ability to make their own decisions, who don’t believe that either party is giving us options to really take control.”
A paralegal and former city councilwoman from Flowery Branch, Swafford said she is “the true outsider” against two political newcomers who have been embraced by their national parties and showered with campaign money in the most expensive Senate race in Georgia history.
The cash has funded a brutal campaign on the television airwaves that mirrors the candidates in-person rhetoric.
Perdue, a Fortune 500 CEO, delivered a familiar line several times Sunday, with the same grin at the end, as if shooting a TV ad: Obama “says his policies are on the ballot. And in Georgia, the name of those policies (is) Michelle Nunn.”
Nunn, a nonprofit executive, reiterated her campaign theme of collaboration.
“I believe that we have too much of the partisanship and the kind of ‘prosecution’ that David talks about, and not enough problem solving together,” Nunn said.
Outsourcing has been a central theme of Nunn’s attacks, particularly since a 2005 deposition that surfaced last month in which Perdue said he “spent most of my career” outsourcing. Perdue has said that his work for multinational corporations in sourcing products and services overseas is not the same as outsourcing jobs because he did not directly fire people in the U.S. to hire people overseas.
“At Dollar General we created tens of thousands of jobs and we outsourced products there,” Perdue said of the company for which he served four years as CEO. “What I’ve said all along is these false attacks are taking away from the real debate we ought to be having that the people of Georgia want.”
Nunn pointed out that while Perdue was working in Hong Kong for Sara Lee building up the company’s Asian sourcing, the company closed plants in Georgia.
“If that’s not outsourcing jobs, I don’t know what is,” Nunn said.
Nunn sometimes dodged the questions thrown her way.
She wouldn’t say whether she would have voted for the Affordable Care Act because “I wasn’t there” in 2010. Nunn said she wants to improve parts of “Obamacare” and “we should not move backwards.”
Nunn also did not directly answer why she continues to show President George H.W. Bush – who founded the Points of Light foundation, which Nunn led – in her ads. Bush has endorsed Perdue, and he has asked her to take the ads down.
Nunn’s paeans to bipartisanship amount to “sleight of hand” in Perdue’s telling. Perdue claims Nunn will support the wishes of leading Democrats if she gets to Washington.
“In the middle of the game, you can’t change your jersey just because your team is losing,” Perdue said.
Georgia’s race has drawn national attention for its potential to decide which party controls the chamber. A Nunn victory could empower Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to hold onto his position. But Nunn maintained that she has several points of disagreement with many in her party.
“I have made it very clear that I have differences with this president, and I will stand up for those differences,” Nunn said. Nunn, for instance, supports the controversial Keystone Pipeline, the project to transport oil from Canada’s tar sands that is opposed by environmental groups and most Democrats in congress. Most Republicans back the pipeline.
“I think it’s incredibly important that we reverse the cuts the president has made – and Congress – in our defense.”
She also attempted to paint Perdue as overly partisan.
“You continue to use rubber stamp,” Nunn said. “I believe everything you’ve said in this campaign would lead people to believe you want to be a rubber stamp for gridlock in Washington.”
Perdue said he would work with Democrats on issues such as tax reform.
He vowed to “work with Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, anybody to move this country forward. This gridlock is unacceptable, but right now the sole person responsible for gridlock is Harry Reid. Until we break that by getting the Senate, nothing is going to happen.”
The Republican accused Nunn of a “flip-flop” for opposing a travel ban from the U.S. to countries where there is an outbreak of the Ebola virus, before switching to support a ban.
On the military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Perdue said “we need leadership from the White House” on a plan to stop the terrorist group but did not say directly if he would vote to go to war. Nunn said she supports the current campaign of airstrikes and arming rebels in Syria, and she wants Congress to debate a long-term war authorization.
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.