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Nunn ramps up attacks on Perdue at Senate forum
U.S. Senate candidates, Democrat Michelle Nunn, left, and Republican David Perdue, right, take part in a televised candidates forum Thursday in Macon. The forum was moderated by former WSB-TV anchor John Puritt, center. - photo by WOODY MARSHALL

MACON — Democrat Michelle Nunn on Thursday ramped up her attacks on Republican David Perdue in Georgia’s closely watched Senate race, portraying her opponent as an obstructionist who would continue gridlock in Washington.

The two met for their first candidate forum, and Nunn quickly set the tone by highlighting her work leading a major volunteer organization founded by former President George H.W. Bush. She also called out Perdue over his opposition to the academic standards known as Common Core, the most recent farm bill and a bipartisan plan for immigration reform.

“Within minutes of winning the election for the Republican nomination, David said this election is about prosecuting the administration and the president,” Nunn said. “I think this election is about the hopes, aspirations and dreams of Georgians, and fighting for Georgians.”

Perdue did not respond directly to Nunn’s attacks and instead focused on criticizing Democratic policies from the federal health care law to environmental regulations.

“If you like what’s going on in Washington, then vote for my opponent,” Perdue said. “She knows she will be nothing more than a proxy for (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and (President) Barack Obama, and nothing will change.”

The Georgia race is among a dozen that will determine control of the Senate for the last two years of Obama’s term. Republicans need to gain six seats and can’t afford to lose what has been a

reliably Republican seat, while Democrats consider Nunn one of their best recruits.

The daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, she has been a strong fundraiser and has been campaigning on a centrist message aimed at wooing independents. Perdue, the cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, won a crowded GOP primary with an outsider message focused on his experiences leading Fortune 500 companies.

The forum was co-hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and featured a discussion on immigration, health care, transportation and national defense.

Both candidates said they would not support raising the gas tax for federal transportation funding, arguing the money could be found elsewhere in the federal budget. Both said there were problems with the federal health care law, but differed on what to do about them.

Perdue argued in favor of repeal, noting his own health plan was canceled under the law and his new one features higher rates and coverage he and his wife don’t need. He said he favors replacing the law with a Republican proposal he says would create more of a free-market system designed to reduce rates and increase access.

Nunn said she favored keeping the elements that work, including allowing children to stay on parents’ plans longer, and wants to work on helping small businesses struggling to provide health care to employees.

At one point, Perdue was asked by the moderator about his support for the government shutdown that left thousands of federal workers furloughed and he responded: “I think that speaks for itself.”

He then added: “What I was saying was that we cannot default on our interest payments.”

The Nunn campaign was quick to seize on the remarks, arguing it was another example of Perdue embracing gridlock over solutions.

On immigration, Perdue said he believes lawmakers should tackle reform by first enforcing existing laws and securing the border. He has said he opposes amnesty for those living in the country without legal documents.

After the forum, Perdue said Nunn’s attacks were “politics as usual.” He said he was willing to reach across the aisle for solutions — “but the solutions they are offering up there are failing.”