It’s safe to say the CW yesterday was that Rep. Jack Kingston, who’d led most polls since the May primary and seemed to have the upper hand in the perpetual “who’s most conservative” sweepstakes, would dispatch businessman David Perdue in the Georgia GOP Senate runoff, albeit perhaps by a less comfortable margin than imagined a month ago. Abysmal turnout (it came in at under 10% of registered voters) was expected to help Kingston over the hump, given his more motivated and SE GA regional base. But instead Perdue won by a margin just outside the maximum that would have triggered a recount.
To put it simply, Kingston did not get the lion’s share of votes cast for the three major defeated primary candidates in metro Atlanta, even though two of them (Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey) endorsed and campaigned with him. It appears Perdue’s heavy runoff advertising outside metro Atlanta was more effective than Kingston’s heavy advertising in the big metro market.
While most observers wrote off the result as the sort of upset that can occur when a nasty and negative campaign turns off many voters, at least one–Kingston backer and right-wing opinion leader Erick Erickson–attributed it to Perdue’s shrewd attack ad on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s support for “amnesty.” The Chamber supplied the bulk of Kingston’s resources during the runoff.
Downballot, the two House “constitutional conservative” members who lost in the Senate primary in May will both be replaced by likeminded firebrands in heavily Republican districts. State legislator Barry Loudermilk crushed former congressman Bob Barr in Phil Gingrey’s GA-11, and Baptist minister/radio talk host Jody Hice comfortably defeated Mike Collins in Paul Broun’s GA-10. A con-con trifecta was avoided when state senator Buddy Carter edged “Dr. Bob” Johnson in Kingston’s GA-01, where elevated turnout probably helped Carter.
In one more interesting downballot runoff, the GOP contest for state school superintendent, a supporter and an opponent of Common Core fought to a near tie, with the opponent, Richard Woods, up by 700 votes. A recount is likely.