But both want voters to know that no bitterness will linger once ballots are counted Tuesday. The bigger prize, they agree, is helping the GOP win a Senate majority by defeating Democrat Michelle Nunn in November in one of the most significant matchups of the 2014 midterm elections.
Republicans need six more seats to control the Senate for the final two years of President Obama’s administration. That threshold would be hard to reach if the
GOP loses retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s seat this fall.
“We simply cannot give Harry Reid one more vote in the United States Senate,” Perdue told supporters Saturday near Gainesville, taking aim at the Democratic majority leader. For that reason, Perdue said, he would unequivocally back Kingston if the Savannah congressman wins the Republican nomination.
Kingston had a similar message for local Republican leaders in nearby Cumming.
“I’ve already told my opponent he won’t even have to call me” to ask for help in a general election campaign, Kingston said. “This election is bigger than either of us.”
Those sentiments didn’t mask the attacks both men continue to wage as they look for any advantage in what is expected to be a close contest.
Perdue led Kingston in a seven-candidate primary May 20, with the two combining for about 55 percent of the 605,000 ballots cast.
Perdue, a former corporate CEO making his first bid for public office, again hammered Kingston as an 11-term congressman who’s had his chance to fix a dysfunctional government.
“This election is real simple,” he said. “If you like what’s going on in Washington, vote for my opponent … My opponent says he has a six-point plan. The problem is it’s the same plan he had in 2006.”
Perdue also has attacked Kingston, a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, for using budget earmarks to steer money to Georgia before joining colleagues to ban the practice of single lawmakers inserting projects into spending bills.
Kingston pushed back on that Saturday, noting that he voted against bank rescues under President George W. Bush and bailouts for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Kingston said Perdue cherry-picks from a long voting record that has earned “trust” from conservatives.
“People know that it’s not a matter of 100 percent agreement on any particular issue,” Kingston said. “What matters is a general philosophy so that you don’t have to watch somebody, because you know that whether they’re in Gwinnett County or Forsyth County, they’re saying the same thing. I think that’s what we need in the conservative family.”
Back in Gainesville, Perdue said, “I don’t have a long voting record for you to look at. What I’m asking is that you trust me to make a difference.”