Georgia’s Republican Senate candidates launched a final push for votes Sunday, with Jack Kingston campaigning with big-name supporters and David Perdue heading to a metro Atlanta megachurch.
With less than 48 hours before Tuesday’s runoff, the two are fighting for every vote as turnout is expected to be low. The winner will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in the fall in a race that could help determine control of the Senate for the last two years of President Barack Obama’s term.
Amid a slight drizzle, Kingston rallied with about 200 supporters on the Marietta Square and was warmly introduced by two of his former rivals in the race – former Secretary of State Karen Handel and Rep. Phil Gingrey, who currently represents the area.
“We’ve got a real fight on our hands,” Handel told the crowd. “This is all about voter turnout and sending a message that the grassroots matter.”
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The challenge for the runoff is for Kingston and Perdue to get their May supporters to vote again, while battling for the conservatives who initially chose someone else. Perdue is pushing his appeal as an outsider, while Kingston maintains his 11 terms in Congress demonstrate his conservatism and effectiveness.
In Marietta’s Cobb County, about 50,500 people voted in the GOP primary in May, the largest number among counties statewide and roughly 8 percent of the statewide vote. Perdue won the county with a slight edge over Handel, while Kingston finished a distant fourth behind Gingrey.
Kingston is banking on the backing of Handel and Gingrey supporters to boost his vote totals in key metro Atlanta counties where the two former candidates did well.
“The three of us believe in the cause and realize the cause is far bigger than any of us,” Kingston said.
Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General, attended Sunday services at Woodstock Baptist Church.
His visit marked a return to the same place he attended church on the final weekend before the May primary. At the megachurch about 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta, candidates don’t address worshippers and the senior pastor, the Rev. Johnny Hunt, doesn’t endorse from the pulpit or even introduce candidates by name.
But the venue and the May vote totals from Cherokee County explain Perdue’s scheduling choice. Woodstock is among the state’s largest congregations, giving Perdue the opportunity to worship alongside thousands of potential voters in Atlanta’s conservative northern suburbs and exurbs that will be critical to determining the GOP nominee.
Perdue led Cherokee County in May with 31 percent of the vote, while Kingston finished third. But 13,000 votes were spread among the other five candidates.
“If we turn out our voters – those people who respond to that message – then we win this thing,” Perdue said in an interview.
Both candidates plan a fly-around Monday, with stops in every region of the state. Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m.