GOPers spar in Georgia primary debate

Georgia Republican Reps. Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun sparred Saturday with each other and four other candidates in the next-to-last debate ahead of the May 20 Georgia Senate primary.

The debate, held near Augusta, Ga., appeared to feature no major gaffes by any candidate, although it was notable for Broun's attacks on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Gingrey's explicit promise to serve only one term in the Senate if he cannot fully repeal ObamaCare.

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The battle to be the Republican candidate in the race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) also features David Perdue, Georgia Ports Authority board member, and the former CEO of Dollar General; centrist patent attorney Art Gardner; black conservative political activist Rev. Derrick Grayson; and Karen Handel, a former secretary of State of Georgia.

Kingston, who this week received the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was unapologetic in presenting himself as an experienced Washington insider, despite strong attacks from Perdue who argued only an outsider can reign in the federal debt.  

“I am not going to apologize for being a long time soldier in this fight,” Kingston said, noting his strong ratings from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, National Right to Life campaign and National Rifle Association.

He also said that he is the best candidate to broaden the appeal of the party given his success in a more Democratic leaning district and willingness to engage liberal media.

“The reality is MSNBC is where you have to go sometimes,” he argued.

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Broun took the opposite tack, emphasizing his plans to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, and many federal departments including the departments of education, labor and energy.

He pointed out that he voted against Boehner for speaker last year and expressed outrage that Boehner was reported to have said he was “hellbent” on passing an immigration reform this year.

“I will not sit back and let our leadership, John Boehner, push though a comprehensive immigration reform bill.” he said, adding amnesty for illegal immigration will be passed “over my dead body.”

Gingrey, in addition to his term limit vow, emphasized social issues such as his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.  

“I am not a professional politician...I'm a doctor first and foremost,” Gingrey said.  

Perdue argued that “politicians are like diapers”  and need to be changed frequently.  

“We look like Democrat lite,” he complained.  

Gardner presented himself as a truth-teller. He made it clear that he is pro-choice, believes in global warming and thinks abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency is crazy, but said he would fight to protect the economy from regulatory overreach and wants to limit government control over peoples lives.

Grayson presented himself as a strict constructionist regarding the Constitution and said he would base all of his positions on whether the government was exceeding its constitutional authority; while Handel closed by arguing that likely Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn would be unable to use “war on women” rhetoric against her in the general election.