Georgia Senate runoff debate turns nasty

Greg Nash

It wasn’t a friendly meeting between Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and businessman David Perdue on Sunday evening as they faced off in the only debate of the Georgia GOP Senate runoff. 

Both used the lone opportunity ahead of next Tuesday’s vote to wage personal attacks against their opponent. Kingston targeted Perdue, a former Fortune 500 CEO, as an out of touch businessman only concerned with his own profit. Perdue fired back, accusing the congressman of being a "career politician" who has accomplished little in his 11 terms in office. 

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Hosted by the Atlanta Press Club and televised on Georgia Public Broadcasting, the half hour debate turned ugly quickly, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When the candidates were given a chance to question each other, both introduced brutal personal attacks. 

Perdue questioned Kingston about an investigation that showed the congressman allegedly received more than $80,000 in campaign donations from companies owned by a convicted felon facing deportation. Perdue urged Kingston to "come clean" about the incident, implying that the donor, Khalid Satary, wanted to buy Kingston's help. 

"It's pretty obvious," Perdue said. "If you have money and you want to buy favor or influence, Jack Kingston is open for business."

Kingston reminded Perdue and the audience that his campaign voluntarily returned the money in question and was adamant that Satary "is not a donor to our campaign."

Then Kingston hit back with his own question, suggesting Perdue benefitted economically from a "sweetheart, insider appointment" to the Georgia Ports Authority board while his first cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), was the state's governor. Perdue dismissed the question, saying there was "absolutely nothing to" the attack. 

With just over a week before the July 22 runoff, both candidates aimed to paint themselves as the best challenger to Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn to claim retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss' (R-Ga.) seat in November. 

Though Kingston was thought to have momentum early in the race, recent polls have showed Perdue closing in on the congressman in what is expected to be a race with low turnout. 

Perdue touted his outsider advantage throughout the debate, implying that Kingston is part of the problem in Washington.

"I'm getting in here to make a difference and solve the mess that you and your cohorts have created over the last 22 years," Perdue fired at Kingston. 

But Kingston suggested in his closing statement that being an outsider may not be such a good thing. 

"President Obama ran as an outsider," the congressman said. "Do you really know what you're getting with David Perdue?"   

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