WATCH: GA Senate Candidates Go Back and Forth After GOP Primary
Ex-CEO David Perdue will face Rep. Jack Kingston in a runoff election July 22 to determine the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia. The winner is expected to face a close race in November against Democrat Michelle Nunn. It's a race that will be crucial to whether the GOP can secure enough seats to take control of the Senate.
Rep. Kingston joined Fox and Friends this morning, expressing confidence that he can make up the ground and defeat Perdue in a few months. He also responded to an ad from Perdue that claims Kingston and other current lawmakers aren't capable of bringing about change.
Kingston defended himself by saying he's been a "consistent fighter for the conservative cause for many years," adding that Perdue hadn't even voted in a GOP primary until now. He also accused Perdue of being a "moderate flip-flopper" on key issues like taxes, guns and immigration.
He called for Tea Party supporters to get behind his candidacy, saying his voting record has received an A+ from the NRA and a 96% with the American Conservative Union.
Watch the interview above.
Next it was Perdue's turn, and he said he decided to run because he is concerned about the debt crisis and the economy. He labeled Kingston as a "career politician," whereas he is an "outsider" from the business world who knows how to grow the economy.
He fired back at Kingston's "flip-flopper" comment, saying statements like that one are "what we've become accustomed to" from politicians.
"Nothing the congressman just said is really true. If you look at my voting record, it speaks for itself," said Perdue, calling out Kingston's "record of spending" in the House and adding that he looks forward to debating how to create jobs for people in Georgia.
Watch his comments below:
Read more below from FoxNews.com:
The winner of the July 22 vote will oppose Michelle Nunn, who easily won the Democratic Senate primary, in November.
With 87 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday, Perdue had 30 percent of the vote, with Kingston garnering 26 percent. In third place, missing out on the runoff, was Tea Party favorite Karen Handel, who could manage only 22 percent of the vote.
Kingston, a 22-year veteran of Congress, drew on his establishment support and the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to fight off the "outsider" campaign of Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Along with Perdue, Kingston and Handel, Reps. Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun also were on the Georgia Republican ballot, and the presence of three incumbent lawmakers in the Senate race assured a large turnover in the state's House delegation come January.
The Senate seat, vacant due to the retirement of Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, was once held by Nunn's father, Sam Nunn.
Perdue said Sunday he was trying to bridge the gap between Tea Party conservatives and more mainstream Republicans.
"My message is forget about what your single issue is or what we disagree on," he said.
Kingston is considered more of a moderate and the Washington establishment candidate.
Last week, Tea Party-backed Ben Sasse won the Nebraska GOP Senate primary, which was seen as comeback for the movement after a series of losses.
In all, Republicans will need to pick up six Senate seats across the country to take over the Senate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Read more from the Associated Press below:
Perdue, who had been leading in the polls, secured his spot in a July 22 runoff with the help of early advertising and a campaign built on portraying himself as the outsider in a crowded field of current or former elected officials. With about 63 percent of precincts reporting, Perdue had 30 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah had 28 percent of the vote to former Secretary of State Karen Handel's 21 percent as vote totals were trickling in from her base in metro Atlanta.
Reps. Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta were in fourth and fifth, respectively. Earlier, Michelle Nunn easily won the Democratic nomination, defeating her three opponents. A runoff in Georgia occurs when no candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote.
The Republican primary fight has been closely watched nationally, with Republicans needing just six seats to claim a majority in the Senate. Nunn is considered a formidable opponent, and Republicans can ill afford to lose the seat, which opened when Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss announced plans to retire. Although the state has voted reliably Republican in recent years, Democrats see an opening with changing demographics in the state -- a growing minority population and residents moving in from out of state.
Kingston, a longtime congressman, dominated in fundraising throughout the GOP race and drew support from dozens of state and local officials. Of the three congressmen, Kingston was considered the strongest to secure a spot in a runoff and received the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent nearly $1 million in TV and online ads promoting him.
"We feel very good about the position we are in," Kingston said as returns came in. He added: "At eight in the morning, we'll start all over again."
Perdue, a cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue and former Dollar General CEO, saw his standing rise in the weeks leading up the election due in part to TV ads depicting his four opponents as crying babies who had their chance to fix the nation's problems. Perdue, who cast himself as an outsider, chipped in $2.1 million of his own money to his campaign.
Handel also sought to claim the outsider mantle. Throughout the race, Handel trailed in fundraising but benefited from being the only candidate to win a statewide office before. She built momentum in the final month with the help of a comment by Perdue and endorsements from the likes of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"It's not always about money," Handel said as she greeted supporters at a campaign party. "It's the message, the person, the experience, the track record and the boots on the ground."
Perdue's comment dismissing Handel's lack of a college degree fired up her supporters but didn't appear to hurt him in polls.
Kingston had cast himself as a frugal politician, and he and others pounced on the chance to say Perdue would raise taxes when the former CEO said spending cuts alone couldn't fix the nation's fiscal problems. Perdue dismissed the attack as "deceitful."
Gingrey focused his campaign on the metro Atlanta area and his pledge to repeal the federal health care law in his first term "or go home," while Broun sought to line up tea party support with his plan of evaluating legislation by whether it's right/moral, constitutional, necessary and affordable.
The other Republicans in the race were patent lawyer Art Gardner and network engineer Derrick Grayson. Neither had raised much money and trailed in the polls. On the Democratic side, former state lawmaker Steen Miles, psychiatrist Branko Radulovacki and ROTC instructor Todd Anthony Robinson were also on the ballot.