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POLITICS: PennAve

Businessman David Perdue bests Rep. Jack Kingston in Georgia runoff surprise

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Politics,Georgia,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,Jack Kingston,David Perdue

It's a tough election cycle to run as a member of Congress.

Public dissatisfaction with Washington and its elected officials was likely one factor that propelled Republican David Perdue to a narrow victory in Georgia on Tuesday over his runoff rival, Rep. Jack Kingston.

Kingston, who has served in Congress for two decades, was slightly favored in the match-up and led Perdue by 6 points on average in public polls.

Kingston also had a high-profile supporter in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent more than $2.3 million supporting Kingston and attacking Perdue. An ad by the group in the final days of the race characterized Perdue as "losing and desperate" and "crying like a little baby" -- an allusion to Perdue's best-known ad, which portrayed his Republican opponents as wailing infants.

The Chamber's endorsement was the source of some drama: Perdue walked out on an interview with the group when they requested he vote with them 100 percent of the time and he "lost (his) temper," Perdue later told supporters. But Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General, was able to effectively tout his own business experience, even without the pro-business Chamber behind him.

Democrats appear poised to try to use that very business experience against Perdue, in attacks reminiscent of those aimed at Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election.

“David Perdue has spent his career tearing apart companies and communities by slashing thousands of jobs in Georgia and across the country and outsourcing jobs to Asia, while walking away with millions for himself," said Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, after the result was announced late Tuesday.

Although the Georgia political landscape tends to favor Republicans, Perdue is expected to face stiff competition in the general election from Democrat Michelle Nunn, who ranks among the most heralded Democratic recruits of this election cycle. Nunn has so far positioned herself as a moderate, often eschewing the "Democrat" label entirely, and playing up her work for former President George H.W. Bush as CEO of his Points of Light foundation.

Name recognition likely won't present a problem for either of the candidates, who will be able to lean on strong political legacies: Perdue is a cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue; Nunn's father is former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn.

This story was first published on July 22 at 11:18 p.m.

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Rebecca Berg

Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner

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