Handel, left, and Perdue, right, debate for the Senate seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Seven Republican Senate hopefuls stood before a mammoth American flag Saturday afternoon for the sixth of seven debates hosted by the state GOP.
In front of a couple hundred voters at the Columbia County Exhibition Center just outside Augusta, the candidates sought to fortify their conservative credentials on immigration, the Second Amendment, abortion and what can be done to improve confidence in the economy.
With so many candidates running for the state’s open Senate seat, none are expected to win a majority of the vote in the May 20 primary. They’re fighting to finish in the top two and advance to the July 22 runoff, when all bets are off.
Michelle Nunn, the likely Democratic nominee, wasn’t mentioned until the final three minutes of the 90-minute debate — symbolic of where the GOP’s focus still is in the race to replace retiring GOp Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel first uttered the Nunn name in her closing remarks, as she portrayed herself as the most electable conservative on the stage.
“I would just love to see Michelle Nunn try to drop the ‘war on women’ on me,” Handel said.
Handel is the only woman in the field of GOP candidates, five of whom have at least an outside shot at making the runoff. Former Reebok and Dollar General CEO David Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, continually pitches himself as the outsider with the business background, grouping Handel in with the three members of Congress as the “career politicians.”
“Sometimes real change takes an outsider’s perspective,” Perdue said. “Fresh eyes, determination and a bucket-load of common sense. That’s what I will bring to the United States Senate.”