With the Georgia Senate primary for the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss roughly two months away, the crowded field of Republican contenders are tripping over each other in an effort to differentiate themselves.
Most observers expect the primary to push candidates to the right on issues as they try to solidify support among the party’s conservative base.
But at least one candidate has taken a different route.
On the campaign trail, Georgia businessman David Perdue, who was CEO of Dollar General and whose cousin Sonny Perdue was Governor of Georgia, is talking about — of all things — working with Democrats.
At a candidate forum earlier this year, Perdue declared that he doesn’t intend to repeal the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, something most conservatives have repudiated, if he’s elected to the Senate.
“I’m not going to go up there and tell you I’m going to repeal Dodd-Frank,” Perdue at the Coweta Republican Party’s breakfast in January, according to a YouTube video posted by the organizers. “I will tell you I’m going to fight to amend it. And to do that, I think I can find some Democratic senators who will join in with logic and be led into a reasonable solution.”
“That’s the only way out of this box frankly,” he added.
At this point in the primary, the three GOP lawmakers who are also running, Rep. Paul Broun, Rep. Jack Kingston and Rep. Phil Gingrey, are on the right on just about every issue.
If anything, they have each tried to emphasize their anti-establishment bona-fides and their commitment to halting a Democratic agenda in Washington.
Unlike Perdue, all three of them have vowed to repeal Dodd-Frank, which has been on the books for nearly four years.
The repealing Dodd-Frank position is not only popular among conservatives — but it was also endorsed by nearly every GOP Republican presidential candidate in 2012.
For the candidates in the GOP race who are not already in Congress, like Perdue and Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, running against gridlock in Washington is an easy way to seem above the fray.
“The problem with the Republican [Party]…says [sic] well wait a minute if you talk to anyone on the other side that means you’re giving up your principles,” Perdue continued at that same forum.
In Perdue’s first campaign ad, he humorously depicted his opponents as crying babies — preemptively whining about the country’s problems rather than fixing them. And Handel has similarly released an ad slamming Kingston, Broun and Gingrey as “career politicians” who have been part of the problem in Washington during their tenure.
But as Beltway concerns rise that the primary could produce a weak or otherwise unelectable candidate, both Perdue and Handel have been prioritizing their reasonableness — at least compared to their opponents.
In a fundraising appeal this week, Handel’s campaign manager Corry Bliss made the case that given the concern the the race could slip into the hands of Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn because of an out-of-the-mainstream candidate, Republicans should back Handel.
“But there’s hope to keep this seat in the Republican column,” Bliss wrote. “To keep this seat in Republican hands and take the majority in the Senate, we must pick the right candidate to defeat Michelle Nunn. Karen is that candidate.”