In the primary, Perdue received 30.6 percent of the vote and Kingston 25.8 percent. Third with 22 percent was Karen Handel, former Georgia secretary of state, while four other candidates split the rest of the votes. How will the 43 percent that didn’t vote for Perdue or Kingston vote in the July 22 runoff?
Kingston can expect endorsements from fellow Congressmen-candidates Phil Gingrey of Marietta, who got 10 percent of the primary vote, and Paul Broun of Athens, who had 9.6 percent. Kingston has the sort of conservative credentials that appeal to Handel’s base, and the same goes for Gingrey’s and Broun’s as well as the other six Republican congressmen’s constituencies.
It’s hard to believe that Karen Handel would support Perdue, who handed her a big put-down during the primary campaign. Without naming her, he referred to “a high school graduate in this race,” and added, “I’m sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex.” He later apologized to Handel, who left an abusive home to work as a teenager and did not get a college education.
Kingston was elected to Congress in 1992 after eight years in the Georgia House. He’s a fiscal and social conservative. He voted against the TARP bailout and stimulus package, is co-sponsor of the FairTax bill and has voted more than 40 times to repeal Obamacare.
Perdue’s business career includes impressive success stories — starting up Asian operations for Sara Lee and negotiating a “revolutionary” contract with the NFL as CEO of Reebok. But there’s a potential downside, a la Mitt Romney, to whom Perdue is compared by virtue of business acumen and wealth. It’s the story of Pillowtex, a North Carolina textile company that hired Perdue after emerging from bankruptcy and facing a huge bank loan, a flood of import competition and an underwater pension plan. Perdue couldn’t raise the capital needed and resigned after seven months in March 2003. Four months later, Pillowtex announced it was shuttering 16 plants and eliminating 6,450 jobs. North Carolina lost 4,000 jobs, the largest single loss in the state’s history. Right or wrong, Perdue gets blamed.
Kingston has already made Pillowtex an issue, echoing attacks on presidential candidate Romney as a “vulture capitalist” for some of his business turnaround efforts. This kind of attack could seriously hurt Perdue in a race against Michele Nunn. Indeed, a reporter for the London-based Guardian visited Georgia and offered this intelligence: “Privately, top Democratic party officials are most hopeful about a race against Perdue, believing a ruthless business career will come back to haunt him.” Ruthless? It’s another indicator of a Perdue vulnerability Kingston does not have.
All things considered, Kingston looks like the better choice for Republicans.