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Daniel Malloy
Greg BluesteinJim Galloway

A hair-pin turn in U.S. Senate race puts the focus on Michelle Nunn

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Georgia’s first – and perhaps last – nine-week primary runoff concludes today. A hair-pin turn in the race to replYour daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogace U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss is already underway.

Republicans Jack Kingston and David Perdue have thrown millions of dollars’ worth of insults at each other. Kingston has accused Perdue of consorting with the French. Perdue, on slightly firmer ground, has accused Kingston of being a member of Congress.

In Washington, The Hill newspaper has found someone willing to offer a highly technical assessment of the situation:

They’ve been beating the crap out of each other,” said Georgia-based Republican strategist Chip Lake, who is neutral in the contest.

On the subscription side, one of our number outlines the high cost of the Republican runoff:

The impact of the nine-week slog can be measured in dollars: According to a breakdown of advertising spending obtained by the AJC, Kingston and allied political action committees — including the deep-pocketed U.S. Chamber of Commerce — spent at least $3.02 million on television ads during the runoff. Perdue and his allies spent at least $2.22 million on TV in the nine-week span.

That story also explored how Republicans never, ever want a repeat of the grueling nine-week runoff. We caught up with Senate candidate David Perdue last night to catch his thoughts.

“I hope this will be the last. It’s too much money. We need to get settled up and go get ready to fight the Democrats. I understand why they did it. But it’s a long nine weeks for both of us. It was an equal playing field so there was no advantage for either side, but that’s a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of energy that we could be spending running against the Democrats.”

Tom Perdue, who is the long-time adviser to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, has a notoriously frosty relationship with Gov. Nathan Deal, and is no relation to David Perdue, is turning some heads this morning with a quote in The Hill piece mentioned above. Tom Perdue advises the newspaper to keep a close eye on Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidates for governor and Senate, respectively:

“The Carter boy and the Nunn kid are the cleanest Democratic ticket the Democrats have had in a long time. Nunn is an outsider. She is a fresh face. She is a newcomer with a pedigree.”

More important, at least this week and next, is the fact that Nunn is rested and flush with cash, while the winner of tonight’s Republican primary runoff will be not only exhausted, but broke – in the Hillary Clinton sense of the word.  After the May 20 Republican primary, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stepped in to give Kingston time to regroup and refuel. This time, another group has stepped forward. From Roll Call:

With the Georgia Republican Senate runoff ending Tuesday, an outside group focused on eradicating wasteful government spending launched a TV ad against Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn.

The group, Ending Spending Action Fund, spent more than $200,000 to produce and place the ad, according to an independent expenditure report filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission. It also spent more than $28,000 on opposition research.

Here’s the TV ad that’s already up:

Incidentally, Kingston and Perdue, in separate interviews this morning on WGAU (1340AM) in Athens, vowed to support tonight’s victor.

“I will take off my Kingston button and put on a perdue button tonight if that happens. There is no equivocation,” Kingston said.

Said Perdue: “This is bigger than Jack, bigger than me. …We just cannot give Harry Reid one more vote in the U.S. Senate.”

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A first debate in the general election contest for U.S. Senate has already been scheduled for Aug. 21. The Macon affair will be hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

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If turnout hits a record low today, Georgia won’t be alone in that boat. From USA Today:

A new study shows 14.8% of eligible U.S. voters have cast ballots in the first 25 statewide primaries this year, according to the non-partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate. That’s down from 18.3% turnout in the 2010 midterms, when the Tea Party movement was strong and Republicans regained control of the U.S. House.

So far, 15 of 25 states have had record low turnout in primaries this year, according to the report.

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On the ethics front, AJCers Aaron Gould Sheinin and Greg Bluestein have new information that indicates that the relationship between the top staffer of the state ethics commission and aides to Gov. Nathan Deal may not have been as threatening — or distant — as claimed:

Text and email messages obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution between Holly LaBerge and Chris Riley show the ethics commission director and Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff exchanging lighthearted missives just hours after LaBerge claims Riley pressured her to settle ethics cases against his boss’s campaign….

The new texts obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News show that LaBerge and Riley carried on a jocular conversation that ended with LaBerge thanking Riley “for the kind words.”

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From the So-Late-It-Probably-Won’t-Matter Department: Dr. Ben Carson, the Maryland neurosurgeon popular with the tea party and a buzzed-about dark horse presidential candidate, is out with an endorsement of Jack Kingston. The congressman recently became first U.S. Senate candidate to sign Carson’s pledge on health care reform that mirrors many Republican principles already under discussion.

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From the So-Late-It-Probably-Won’t-Matter Department, Vol. II:  Bob Barr, in a do-or-die Republican runoff with Barry Loudermilk in the 11th District congressional contest, has received a late endorsement from U.S.Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chief inquisitor of the Obama administration as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Said Issa:

“I served with Bob on the Government Oversight Committee when he was in the House previously, and we need his expertise as a former prosecutor and tough inquisitor now more than ever to help conduct vital investigations of the Obama Administration’s abuses of power.”

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An interesting stat from Roll Call: If Jody Hice wins today’s 10th Congressional District GOP runoff (and presumably in the fall) it would bring the number of ministers in Congress to eight. One of the others is Gainesville’s own Rep. Doug Collins.

 

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