Michelle Nunn deserves your vote
Here's why you should vote for Nunn - and avoid GOP candidate David Perdue - in a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate
Nearly a dozen candidates jumped into the 2014 U.S. Senate race upon hearing that Georgia U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss would not seek re-election. Over the past two years, the key statewide election has grown into a war. The race's national implications could determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate for the next two years and beyond.
You'll find three candidates on the Nov. 4 ballot as possible replacements for the two-term Moultrie senator. But there are two clear frontrunners. Longtime business honcho David Perdue emerged from a crowded seven-candidate GOP primary and, later, squeezed by Savannah Congressman Jack Kingston in a nasty July runoff. To the left, Michelle Nunn, former CEO of Atlanta-based international organization Points of Light, has focused on the general election since launching her bid two summers ago, given her weak primary opposition.
Nunn and Perdue are both middle Georgians, political rookies, and self-described "outsiders" to Washington D.C. And both come from notable political families: Nunn's father, Sam, served as U.S. Senator for 24 years, and Perdue's cousin, Sonny, occupied the Georgia governor's mansion for two terms. That's about where the similarities end.
Before we dig into Nunn and Perdue's differences, let's look at the third candidate: Libertarian paralegal Amanda Swafford. She's a champion of open government, fair tax reform, marijuana legalization, and same-sex marriage. Unlike her opponents, Swafford has served in elected office as a former Flowery Branch councilwoman. The few bright spots on her platform are overshadowed by her lack of political acumen. She's a perpetually flustered ideologue who seems overwhelmed enough at small debates. We couldn't imagine her under the pressure of statewide office. Swafford won't win, but she could force Nunn and Perdue into a high-stakes runoff of national importance in January 2015.
Perdue, an affluent executive who's led companies such as Dollar General and Reebok, says his business background would help move the American economy in the right direction. He wants to cut spending, reform taxes, reduce regulations, and lower the national debt. On most issues, Perdue outright opposes policies tied to President Barack Obama. He supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, fighting same-sex marriage, and opposes amnesty for undocumented immigrants. He pledges to take the current Democratic administration to task for what he says are failed economic and social policies.
If elected, Nunn says she would be a relationship-builder and focus on bipartisan collaboration to end gridlock in Washington D.C. Despite the U.S. Senate's recent lack of progress on passing bills, the moderate Democrat says there are pieces of legislation — bills that deal with the minimum wage, immigration reform, pay equity, and energy efficiency— that cluster at a "tipping point" and could pass with her help. Those would be her biggest priorities, she says, plus "hopefully being a change agent and pragmatic bridge builder."
We had — and have — high hopes for Nunn. But she has mostly underwhelmed us on the campaign trail. Any political newcomer can — hell, is expected to — talk about being bipartisan. In her attempt to pander to both moderates and liberals, she's tiptoed on issues important to progressives, specifically the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage. Yes, she eventually came around to vocalize support for both of those issues. But that happened only after opponents, and to a degree the press, forced her to voice an opinion. Nunn should have taken a more vocal stand early on. If she's that kind of candidate, it's likely that she'll be the same kind of senator. That's not encouraging.
OK, we've aired our grievances with Nunn. Now let's get real. Under no circumstances should you cast a ballot for Perdue. Business leaders can be good politicians. But over four decades, Perdue has made his fortune through slashing hard-working people's jobs or outsourcing positions at companies he's run, such as Pillowtex, Gitano, and Sara Lee. When given the chance to defend his outsourcing efforts, he doubled down in front of TV cameras, saying he was "proud" of his track record. Those comments are coming out of the mouth of a man who's been called "Mitt Romney without the charm." As expected, the GOP has fallen in lockstep behind its candidate. But Perdue lacks a firm grasp on the state's biggest needs, and he has failed to offer many solutions apart from chiding the president.
Perdue's largest criticism against Nunn is that, if elected, the Democrat would be nothing more than a surrogate to Obama and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. That's entirely possible. That's also not necessarily a bad thing. No matter your take on the president's second and final term, we'd rather have a politician willing to work with her colleagues and push policies to improve the lives of Georgia residents. That's not Perdue. Not by a long shot.
Perdue can't name a single Democratic policy he'd be willing to support. That's because Perdue, who thumbs his nose at the D.C. establishment, essentially wants to join it by adding another voice to the gridlock. What Perdue wants, frankly, is the opposite of what our state and our country need for the next six years. Nunn has the relevant experience, plus a history of working for and with others, and she isn't promising us the moon. She deserves your vote and the become the next U.S. senator from Georgia.