ATLANTA — Michelle Nunn was less than halfway through her opening remarks in Thursday’s Senate debate when she began attacking David Perdue.
It was the first time the two candidates have been on stage together since Nunn won the Democratic nomination in May and Perdue took the Republican nomination in a July runoff.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Association of Broadcasters and the Georgia News Network organized the debate in Macon and broadcast it to radio stations statewide. Libertarian nominee Amanda Swafford did not participate.
While Perdue’s opening remarks listed the national debt, burdensome regulations and Washington stalemates as problems, Nunn zeroed in on him personally. She listed the same problems but accused him of supporting partisan confrontations that create gridlock.
“That sounds to me like Washington as usual,” she said.
She hammered him for centering his campaign on attacking her rather than focusing on “the hopes, aspirations and dreams of the people of Georgia.”
Nunn stuck to her campaign strategy of portraying herself as a moderate willing to collaborate with members of the other party to solve problems rather than trying to score political points. A series of independent polls show Nunn behind, some as much as double
Perdue was less aggressive Thursday, aiming most of his barbs at the president and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for refusing to consider proposals from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. It wasn’t until his closing remarks that he lobbed even a single stone at Nunn.
“You know she’ll be nothing more than a proxy for Harry Reid and Barack Obama,” he said.
The campaigns had limited the forum’s topics to transportation, immigration, health care and defense. And the event ended early when the retired Atlanta TV anchorman moderating it ran out of questions.
On transportation and defense, Nunn and Perdue weren’t far apart. The two agreed to do what they could to protect the state’s military bases from closure by working with local leaders.
Health care and immigration illustrated their sharpest differences.
Perdue said the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.
“I absolutely think it’s unfixable. I don’t think you can repair this,” he said, calling instead for a plan written by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.
“This government has not proven it can manage this big of a part of our economy,” Perdue said. “Look at what they have done with the Veterans Administration and it might give you some indication of what this is going to look like in a few years.”
Nunn said that would be a step backward for people with chronic conditions who have coverage under the act that they couldn’t get before. But she said it’s not perfect, especially because hospitals are facing steep cuts in Medicare payments.
On immigration, Nunn favors a bipartisan Senate bill also backed by the U.S. Chamber that Perdue used in attacking runoff opponent Jack Kingston.
Perdue said current immigration laws should be better enforced before enacting new ones that “implied amnesty,” which he said has led to the recent surge in unaccompanied children crossing the border.