The runoff for the Republican Senate nomination in Georgia between multimillionaire David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston is sure to be one of the GOP's hardest-fought political battles in coming months.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, first-time candidate Perdue had 30.6 percent of the vote, with Kingston second at 25.8 percent. In third place with 22 percent was former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who had the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, who are both physicians, had 10 percent and 9.6 percent respectively.
Handel, Broun, and Gingrey did not say Tuesday night who they would now support for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss. But with all three running as solid conservatives, it appears more likely that many of their supporters will end up in Kingston's camp.
A close ally of Newt Gingrich, Kingston hit hard at Perdue regarding the businessman's favorable comments on tax increases. In addition, Kingston strongly attacked Perdue's statement that he had "no problem" with the controversial educational program known as Common Core.
Perdue is the cousin of Georgia's former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, who was in Washington, D.C., on the day after the primary for an event with four other former governors "to discuss why they support Common Core standards."
In the twilight weeks of the primary, many well-known state and national conservative leaders rallied to Kingston's side.
The congressman was endorsed by former presidential hopeful Steve Forbes, considered most responsible for putting the flat tax on the political map, and former Republican Rep. John Linder of Georgia, a congressional father of the fair tax.
Also coming out strongly for Kingston was former Sen. Mack Mattingly, the Peach State's first Republican senator since Reconstruction and a revered figure among state GOP activists.
Recalling how he came to the Senate the same year Ronald Reagan was elected president, Mattingly hailed Kingston as someone who "works in the true conservative tradition of Ronald Reagan."
The winner of the July 22 runoff will face a strong fall challenge from Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of Georgia's revered former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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