WASHINGTON — After a long and crowded race, Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue are the top two candidates for the Republican Senate nomination in Georgia.
The two will square off in a July runoff election, and the winner will take on Democrat Michelle Nunn in November.
It was expected that Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General, would make it into the run-off. Kingston and former Secretary of State Karen Handel had been battling it out for second place. Handel made significant gains in the final weeks of the campaign, but was badly outspent by both men and spent little time on the air.
The AP called second place for Kingston with 87 percent of precincts reporting, who took in 26 percent of the vote, and Handel in third with 21 percent.
Perdue has defined himself as a "Washington outsider," having never served in public office. Kingston has been a congressman for two decades has the backing of the Chamber of Commerce and the NRA.
The primary also ended the congressional careers of both Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. Republicans had fretted early on that either gaffe-prone man might make it through the very conservative primary — putting the Senate seat in jeopardy — but both campaigns fizzled out.
Democrats see the open seat in Georgia as one of the best pick-up opportunities they have in 2014, charging that no matter who comes out of the runoff they'll be too conservative for the state. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called Perdue and Kingston "fundamentally flawed candidates" who will push each other "even more outside the mainstream." Nunn, a moderate Democrat and the daughter of former U.S Senator Sam Nunn, easily won her primary.
National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Jerry Moran said in a statement both men were "two strong Republican leaders" and Nunn would be a "rubber stamp for the liberal Obama agenda."