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Perdue bus tour rolls through Gainesville
U.S. Senate candidates ramping up efforts ahead of Tuesday primary
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Georgia Republican Senate candidate David Perdue, center, talks with supporters during a campaign stop Wednesday morning at Longstreet Cafe in Gainesville ahead of the state's Tuesday primary election. - photo by David Goldman

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue rolled through Gainesville Wednesday morning on a statewide bus tour, making a stop at the Longstreet Café to speak with supporters and encourage patrons to vote in the primary race May 20.

“A lot of people in this state don’t know that May 20 is an election day,” he said. “So we’re trying to get the word out, keep the energy level up.”

Perdue, a former Reebok and Dollar General CEO, is vying for the state’s U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss. He faces six other challengers in the Republican primary.

Perdue has polled consistently well in recent months, often garnering the widest support among likely voters. But in such a crowded field, the possibility of getting more than 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff seems unlikely for any candidate.

“I think, realistically, this is probably going to go to a runoff,” which would be held July 22, Perdue said.

About two dozen people turned out at Longstreet to shake hands with Perdue, offer support and engage the businessman in a little political talk.

Several attendees spoke about the general election race this fall, with Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn the likely challenger to the Republican nominee.

Nunn has fared well in recent polls pitting her against Republican candidates, but voters at Longstreet said they thought conservatives would rally around the Republican nominee.

Jim Echols said he was “looking real closely” at who he would cast his ballot for on Tuesday, adding that Perdue had a lot to offer as a businessman and Washington outsider.

And Perdue is hoping that casting himself as the outsider will resonate with voters fed up with Washington politics.

This is Perdue’s first foray into politics, and he said his campaign has both reaffirmed the need for change in the nation’s capital and the possibility of it coming to fruition.

Perdue’s message is simple: His opponents are responsible for the “full-blown financial crisis,” and he hopes to end their terms as “career politicians.”

While Perdue’s appeal might be gaining traction with voters, he believes it also has sent his opponents scurrying to dig up dirt and launch negative attacks in the final days of the primary campaign.

“Right now, I’m getting chopped at from quite a few places,” Perdue said.

Moreover, Perdue said his challenge was not just reaching voters, but fighting back against the influence of money in politics, something he called “insidious.”

“The system is rigged” in favor of incumbents, Perdue said, because they can tap war chests, political action committees and big money fundraisers to support their campaigns.

Before heading out on his bus, with the next stop scheduled for Monroe, Perdue thanked his supporters, including Gainesville resident Carl Liggett.

“I think he conducts himself with grace and dignity,” Liggett said.

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