Posted: 2:40 pm Sunday, May 18th, 2014
By Daniel Malloy and Greg Bluestein
Rain dampened turnout at the Johns Creek Veterans Association Picnic and moved the festivities inside, but Phil Gingrey and Karen Handel still showed up to work the room ahead of Tuesday’s Senate race primary.
A couple of Democratic video trackers were there awaiting Jack Kingston, but packed up and left once word spread that Kingston — who thought the picnic had been rained out — would be a no-show.
The attendees paid little attention to the Senate and gubernatorial race debates playing on a large TV screen as they chatted and munched on hot dogs and hamburgers.
Gingrey said he was charging toward Tuesday’s finish line, including taking the time this afternoon to call undecided voters along with members of his family to try to sway them to his candidacy.
“I wouldn’t take anything for being in this race, even though it’s been tough. It hasn’t been a slam dunk, has it Wes?” he said, nudging an aide. “We’ve had to work every step of the race.”
Handel, when asked why she deserved their vote, gave a quick sales pitch to Mark and Lee Jarboe that she is a consistent conservative with a track record to prove it. They also traded anecdotes about the hot North Fulton housing market. The Jarboes said they were still undecided after hearing from Handel and had more research to do before Tuesday.
“But I liked her,” Lee said.
At the Atlanta Press Club’s 11th District debate, the knives were out for former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk.
He was attacked for resigning his statehouse seat to run for Congress and peppered with other questions from his rivals throughout the debate.
Loudermilk sees it as a sign he’s a frontrunner for the seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Phil Gingrey. Former Rep. Bob Barr is also seen as the top contender for a spot in the likely July 22 runoff.
But the line of the night went Allan Levene, a naturalized citizen from London who plans to also run for Congress in Hawaii.
Riffing off an anti-Obamacare screed, he said he was the only candidate in the running for the northwest Atlanta district who lived under a national health system. “And I have the teeth to prove it,” he added.
There were hoots and hollers and a standing ovation for Handel from about 100 partisans in a hotel room in Dunwoody on Sunday afternoon.
Familiar backers of her campaign gathered on stage to sing her praises: state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus, Roswell councilwoman (and Congressional spouse) Betty Price, former GAGOP chair Sue Everhart and WSB-Radio talker Erick Erickson.
Erickson crystallized the argument for Handel in these final moments of the race: She’s the only non-establishment candidate, in his estimation, who can win:
“You’ve got some good friends of mine in the race and it’s just not happening for ‘em. There isn’t a conspiracy among pollsters to shape up this race. I’ve got some friends, they’ve got no shot. You got three people in the race who have a shot at the runoff — David Perdue, Karen Handel, Jack Kingston. The others are fine people. They have no shot. I can see it. You can see it. You got to pick and choose.”
Erickson said afterward that he would quickly endorse Kingston if it was a Perdue-Kingston runoff. He brought up Perdue’s “revenue” comments to the Macon Telegraph and accused him of sounding like an elitist.
For Handel, it was an emotional moment to cap her bus tour. She thanked her husband, Steve, because: “He makes me smile when no one else can, and he can tell me to sit down and shut up when no one else can.”
Handel said she expects low turnout on Tuesday.
“That’s disappointing from process standpoint, unfortunately,” she said. “But on the flip side, a low turnout is probably a very good thing for us, because I know we have the most committed supporters out there.”
About the Authors
Daniel Malloy is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington Correspondent, covering the Georgia Congressional delegation and other D.C. goings-on that affect the state since 2011. He's a zealous fan and proud graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.