The winner of the GOP nomination for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat touts himself as a political outsider. But businessman David Perdue now needs the political know-how and network of career politicians to beat Democrat Michelle Nunn in the general election.
Perdue pulled off a political upset Tuesday, defeating 11-term Congressman Jack Kingston in a hotly contested primary runoff election.
And the Monday morning (or Wednesday morning) quarterbacking began even before the night was over. But some of Georgia’s top GOP activists could barely analyze what happened, much less make sense of it.
While Perdue came in first in the May primary, nearly all of Georgia’s Republican establishment backed Kingston, including the U.S. Chamber.
Prominent Gwinnett County developer Emory Morsberger couldn’t hide his shock at Kingston’s election results party in Atlanta.
When asked what put Perdue over the top, Morsberger said, “I’m trying to figure that out.”
He’s concerned about Perdue’s battle cry against Washington, saying there’s another side.
"There are some who are against somebody from Washington,” he said late Tuesday night. “There are other people who want someone who knows what they’re doing in Washington.”
He added that "the going too far to the right that may have slowed down some of the more moderate counties like Gwinnett," affecting turnout.
Wednesday morning, Perdue appeared with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal at the GOP’s state headquarters in Atlanta. And he wasted no time going after career politicians in the Democratic Party, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
“We can’t give Harry Reid one more vote in the U.S. Senate,” he told reporters.
He had nothing but praise, though, for Kingston and Deal, themselves longtime politicians. Deal, a former state legislator and Congressman, swatted away the notion he’s part of the professional political class Perdue wants to evict.
“I have been in elected political life for a very long time,” Deal acknowledged. “But what some people forget is that for 23 years I was a small-town lawyer. And my practice was what I call street-level law.”
Indeed, Deal said he and Perdue have something in common: opponents from famous political dynasties. Perdue faces Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Senator, Sam Nunn, while Deal is running against state Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter.
"We're not running on our namesakes. Our opponents are going all around the country, raising money because they have good names," he said. "I don't have a problem with that. I have a longtime friendship with Sam Nunn, dating back to his original election in 1972. But we believe a candidate should run on their own record."
Neither Perdue or Nunn has held political office. Both are former executives; he worked in the corporate world, while she headed up a nonprofit. And both are aiming to be the next fresh face that Georgia sends to Washington.
Nunn won the Democratic Primary in May when she handily defeated three lesser-known opponents.