(WOMENSENEWS)–Democrat Michelle Nunn, hoping to become the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia, will be back on the campaign trail tomorrow if she does not win 50 percent of the vote in the election against Republican businessman David Perdue and Libertarian Amanda Swafford.
Razor-thin polling leads have been going back and forth in the waning days of the race. A Nov. 3 poll of likely voters by WSB-TV Atlanta found Perdue leading 49 percent to Nunn’s 45 percent. But a CNN poll of Oct. 20 found 47 percent of likely voters supported Nunn, 44 percent Perdue and five percent Swafford. Nunn’s biggest advantage was with female voters who backed her 56 percent over 38 percent for Perdue.
If a Jan. 6 runoff occurs, a vast network of super PACs on both sides of the partisan aisle are prepared to unleash a barrage of hard-hitting TV ads to influence voters if partisan control of the Senate still hangs in the balance.
Republicans must have a net gain of six seats today to become the majority in the Senate. As the races come down to the wire, some of the most competitive, in addition to this one in Georgia, are in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Colorado and Arkansas.
The candidates may also be heading for a courtroom because a state judge ruled last week against civil rights groups seeking to force the Georgia secretary of state to account for about 40,000 voter registrations that were filed but apparently have not appeared on the voting roles. Most of them were African Americans who tend to vote for Democrats.
Nunn faces an uphill battle because Democrats in Georgia have lost all five runoffs for various offices since 1992. Thanks to recent demographic changes, Nunn’s chances in the runoff are considered better than most Democrat candidates in the South, where 49 percent of the nation’s Republicans live. Between 2000 and 2010, 80 percent of the new residents who arrived in Georgia were non-whites, Census data shows.
If a nine-week runoff takes place, Nunn and Perdue are expected to argue over who is best qualified to help Georgia bounce back from the 2008 recession. In September, Georgia’s unemployment rate of nearly 8 percent was the highest in the nation. The U.S. rate– just under 6 percent–was the lowest in six years.
Equal Pay, Higher Minimum Wage
Nunn is expected to highlight her support of equal pay, increase in the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and other protections for low-income workers. These stances helped her attract female voters who turned the race into a dead heat in the final days of the midterm contest. They also rallied lifelong Democrats who supported her father Sam Nunn who held the Senate seat for 24 years before retiring in 1996.
Perdue, a cousin of former Georgia GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue, is expected to continue to cast 47-year-old Nunn as a cheerleader for President Barack Obama’s failed economic plans. During the general election, Perdue’s broadcast ads said Nunn was unqualified because she had no business experience.
The ads also alleged that Nunn’s $300,000 salary as CEO of Points of Light, a nonprofit organization founded by President George H. W. Bush, was excessive for a nonprofit organization that promotes volunteerism.
To attract Libertarians who favor small government, the 64-year-old businessman is expected to emphasize his support for cutting the deficit by increasing the age of retirement to 70 under Social Security for workers entering the labor force, and tightening Medicare provisions
Nunn’s broadcast ads of are expected to cite Perdue’s opposition to equal pay. The former CEO of Dollar General, Perdue angered female voters during the candidates’ Oct. 19 debate when he was dismissive of lawsuit alleging wage discrimination against the female store managers during his tenure.
"There was no wrongdoing," Perdue said. "That lawsuit was settled five years after I was there. It was less than 2,000 people."
Wage Discrimination at Dollar General
"Two thousand women seems like a lot to me," Nunn shot back. She also pointed out that although the discount chain had claimed that it had justifiable reasons for paying women less than men, an area director of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission found that the company’s explanation for the disparity was not supported by the evidence. A settlement of almost $19 million was paid to the 2,100 women.
The Nunn campaign ran an ad in which the narrator asked, "If David Perdue didn’t do right by women at his company, why would he do right by Georgia?" Emily’s LIST, a Washington-based political action committee that supports pro-choice Democratic female candidates, spent more than $960,000 on similar broadcast ads.
Other broadcast ads by Nunn supporters are expected to highlight Perdue’s revelation in a 2005 deposition that most of his career had been spent in outsourcing.
A 60-second spot in the closing days of the general election portrayed Perdue as a cold-hearted CEO who had left Pillowtex, a North Carolina textile company, with a $1.7 million severance after 10 months as CEO. The company closed a few months later, leaving over 4,000 workers in the state unemployed.
In Nunn’s attack ad, a female worker, shown against a backdrop of vacant factories, held up an empty bag, claiming that Perdue had left workers with nothing.
During campaign stops in the closing days of the campaign Perdue defended his record of helping brands retool, namely Reebok, Sara Lee, Levis and Coach.
"The criticism I’ve gotten over the last few weeks is coming from people who really have no business background and really don’t know what it takes to create jobs and create economic value, which is really what the free enterprise system is based on," he said at an Oct. 16 press conference.
Perdue Emphasizes Jobs
Over half of the broadcast ads run by Perdue supporters from Sept. 1 through Oct. 22 focused on jobs, found the Middleton, Conn., Wesleyan Media Project, a nonprofit organization that tracks political ads to increase transparency in elections. Many ads showed Georgia workers claiming that "Perdue created and saved thousands of jobs right here in Atlanta."
Gun control is also expected to be an issue in the runoff. The Georgia legislature approved the nation’s most permissive gun law March 21. Dubbed the "guns everywhere measure," it allows licensed gun owners in Georgia to bring guns into bars, city halls and the common areas of airports and even schools and churches if their members agree.
Perdue, a hunter, was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, this summer. "The Second Amendment is not about hunting," he said in his acceptance. "It is about the right to protect our families, our property and even our country."
The NRA spent $780,000 on ads in September linking Nunn to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who donated $50 million last spring to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group that has launched outreach groups to women and mothers in particular to encourage them to oppose gun violence.
Two days later Bloomberg, a billionaire, donated $350,000 to Georgians Together, Nunn’s individual super PAC, which began running ads that did not mention gun control specifically but proclaimed that "Georgian women just can’t trust David Perdue."
Nunn supports the expanded background check legislation that failed in the Senate in 2013. Research indicates that female voters are more likely to support candidates who favor gun control than are men.