Former Dollar General CEO David Perdue
, perched in polls atop Republican contenders for the May 20 Senate primary in Georgia, took a swipe at tea party challenger Karen Handel's educational credentials in a videotaped speech, the Atlanta Journal Constitution
“I mean, there’s a high school graduate in this race, OK?" Perdue says in a January speech at Bibb County GOP headquarters that was posted on YouTube
"I’m sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex. There’s only one candidate in this race that’s ever lived outside the United States. How can you bring value to a debate about the economy unless you have any understanding about the free enterprise system and how — what it takes to compete in the global economy?”
Handel's lack of a college degree
— she left a broken home at 17 and finished high school but not college — also came up during her 2010 run for governor.
The Journal Constitution reported that Perdue has a bachelor's and master's degree from Georgia Tech.
In an email to Newsmax, Julianne Thompson, co-chair of the Atlanta Tea Party, said she was "appalled" at Perdue's comments and "for what he obviously considers to be a lack of pedigree to hold public office."
"One of the most important things we look for in a leader is that person's ability to identify with the citizens they intend to govern," she wrote.
"Mr. Perdue should feel thankful he never had to suffer abuse as a child, so bad that he would have had to leave home at 17, like Mrs. Handel. He should feel thankful he could afford a college education and become a multimillionaire, and not have to spend his time working multiple jobs just to make ends meet," Thompson wrote.
She added that Perdue "can’t understand those things because he is completely out of touch with ordinary Georgians."
Handel campaign manager Corry Bliss also blasted Perdue's statement, calling Handel's "hard work and determination . . . the embodiment of the American Dream."
“While David boasts about all the time he spent living in Europe and Asia, and all of the millions of dollars he intends to spend on this race, this election is about who conservatives can relate to and trust to get results in the United States Senate," Bliss' statement to the newspaper added.
Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey told the Journal Constitution that Perdue, a cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, was "simply making the case that he is the most qualified person in this race to help get our economy back on track so that we can start paying down the massive federal debt."
"His comment was based on facts that are a matter of public record,” Dickey said.
Some notable Georgia political leaders have lacked college degrees, the newspaper pointed out, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.
Also, GOP primary contender Jack Kingston, polling just behind Perdue,
lived in Ethiopia as a child, the Journal Constitution noted.
The primary is to pick a Republican to vie for the seat being vacated by two-term GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, will likely be the Republican's opponent in the general election.
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.