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Daniel Malloy

Key Georgia Senate candidates won’t back Mitch McConnell

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At the close of Saturday night’s U.S. Senate Republican debate (which airs Sunday at 11 a.m. on Channel 2 Action News) our Jim Galloway asked the seven hopefuls on stage: Would you support Mitch McConnell as GOP leader, whether in the minority or majority?

The Kentuckian was not warmly embraced.

Businessman David Perdue: “My answer is no.”

Former Secretary of State Karen Handel: “Absolutely not. We need new leadership with new people there.”

Rep. Jack Kingston: “I’m going to support whoever will sign off on my drive to change the status quo.”

Rep. Paul Broun pointed to his vote against House Speaker John Boehner but added: “I never pledge what I’m going to do in the future ’til we look at who’s going to be running, so I don’t know.”

Rep. Phil Gingrey: “I pledge to sit down with every member of the Senate, the incumbents or newly elected, who want to be part of our leadership and listen to ‘em and ask ‘em the tough questions before I would commit to supporting them for the leadership positions.”

MARTA engineer Derrick Grayson: “The answer is no.”

Attorney Art Gardner broke with the crowd: “Yes, because the problem with Sen. McConnell isn’t that he’s ineffective. He’s ineffective because he’s in the minority. So I don’t have a problem saying yes.”

Notice the breakdown among the top tier: The Congressmen hedge, while Handel and Perdue firmly refuse to back McConnell.

***

This debate followed the Georgia Public Broadcasting format of allowing each candidate to ask a question of another. It provided most of those on stage an opportunity to stick a knife in someone else — usually Perdue.

But for the second time, Broun declined the chance. As he gave a mini stump speech, Channel 2 Action News’ Justin Farmer broke in: “Mr. Broun, do you have a question, sir?” Broun’s response:

“My question is, what separates you from all the rest of these candidates and the question I ask that to is Dr. Paul Broun. And the answer to that is every single candidate on this stage says what they will do. But I’ve been doing it. I’ve got the bill to repeal Obamacare, the Patient Option Act. My jobs bill will bring a lot of manufacturing back to America.”

He went on from there. At the end of his time, Broun asked, “Do I get a rebuttal to my own question?” Farmer’s reply: “That was scintillating, but no.”

After the debate, Broun issued a statement explaining the approach by saying that, “My campaign is based on my own ideas and record – not tearing down the other candidates with political attacks and cheap shots.”

***

Oh but there were many shots — cheap and expensive — to go around. Many are familiar by now, such as Gingrey’s hit on Perdue for the Pillowtex bankruptcy. But Gingrey followed with this:

“Most recently you and your cousin create an import-export business called Perdue Partners, which just happened to be created after your cousin — the former governor — appointed you to the Georgia Ports Authority. That sounds like a conflict of interest to me.

“Maybe you’re right when you say that you would be one of the only people in the United States Senate with that type of business experience. Blue-collar Georgians just can’t afford David Perdue.”

Perdue’s response:

“When I looked at the background of the people on the Port Authority — and first of all, I’m insulted personally about Perdue Partners. I’m one of three partners there. We export American-made products into Asia. Yes I said that right, Congressman — American-made projects into Asia. I know full well the difficulties of dealing with this federal government. And that’s why I want to go to Washington and try to bring some common sense and create a level playing field so we can get our manufacturers to competing again around the world.”

In response to the now-familiar attack on Perdue by Kingston for being on a board of a company that took stimulus money, Perdue pulled out a new jab: Kingston requested stimulus money for Georgia after voting against the stimulus law.

Perdue also had a Ronald Reagan riff to call attention to Kingston’s lengthy service in Congress. “And I have a question for the voters of Georgia: Are you better off than you were 22 years ago?”

Kingston’s new hit on Perdue was an attempt to say he was in favor of immigration reform because he was part of the seven-member board of the National Retail Foundation when the organization endorsed a Congressional immigration reform plan in 2006. Perdue says he did not support the plan.

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