Photo: In this Aug. 6, 2019, file photo, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., speaks during a Kiwanis Club of Atlanta luncheon.
Photo Credit: Andrea Smith / AP
Published February 17, 2021
The Center for Responsive Politics [By Alyce McFadden] –
Former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) filed paperwork with the FEC to create a new campaign committee, signaling his intent to try his electoral luck again after losing to Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) in January.
According to a Tuesday statement, Perdue is weighing a 2022 run against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) when his current term ends in 2022. Ossoff will not be up for reelection again until 2026. Perdue’s statement did not formally announce his candidacy, but clarified that he will “continue to keep all options open.”
Georgia’s two January Senate runoffs flipped the Senate from red to blue, delivering Democrats the slimmest of majorities in the upper chamber. Warnock challenged former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp following the resignation of her predecessor in 2020.
Between November and the January runoffs, campaign contributions flowed into the Peach State from across the country, making Perdue’s race the most expensive in Senate history. Perdue ultimately raised $102.3 million during the 2020 cycle, spending about $97 million. Ossoff raised more — $153.6 million in direct contributions — but Perdue benefited from significantly more outside spending than his opponent.
Perdue’s leftover campaign cash could jumpstart his 2022 campaign. According to his most recent FEC filings, the former business executive still had more than $5.7 million in the bank. Only two other losing Senate candidates — Loeffler and Maine’s Sara Gideon — had more money left over. FEC filings also revealed that Perdue returned $637,000 in contributions to individual donors after conceding to Ossoff in early January.
Ossoff is the first Jewish senator from Georgia, and Warnock became just the second Black senator elected to the Senate from a Southern state since Reconstruction. In his statement, Perdue called the Democratic pair “two of the most radically liberal individuals ever to occupy a seat on the hollowed floor of the United States Senate.”
“They do not fairly represent most Georgians,” Perdue continued. Some commentators and moderate Republicans blamed former President Donald Trump for the Republican losses in Georgia after his campaign efforts to boost Perdue and Loeffler appeared to backfire.
President Joe Biden won the state by less than half a percentage point in 2020, a slim victory that meant Trump’s vote share slid by roughly 5 percent from 2016. Just before the runoff, Trump paid for TV ads that alleged massive voter fraud in Georgia, but spent nothing on electioneering materials to boost Perdue or Loeffler.
Still, Perdue stood by Trump through the final stretch of his campaign. Days before he lost to Ossoff, Perdue questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s win, following Trump’s lead.
In a statement on the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Perdue denounced the violence but notably did not mention Trump’s alleged role in inciting the mob. In 2022, this could help him with Republicans who remain loyal to the former president. Around 53 percent of the party would support Trump in a presidential primary if it were held today, according to a recent poll by Politico and Morning Consult.
Perdue isn’t the first former Republican Senator to run again despite a recent loss. In Arizona’s 2018 Senate race, then-Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) lost to Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.). The next year, MsSally was appointed to Congress by Arizona’s governor following the resignation of former Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz), who briefly replaced the late Sen. John McCain. McSally served two years in Washington before coming up for election and losing again, this time in a costly race against Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
In Connecticut, WWE Wrestling executive Linda McMahon ran for Senate as a Republican in 2010 and lost. In 2012, she ran again and lost again. By the end of the two campaigns, she had spent more than $100 million of her own money. Now she runs America First Action, a super PAC.
Twenty seats occupied by Republicans and 14 occupied by Democrats, including Warnock and Kelly, will be contested in 2022. Of the Republicans, four — Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) — have already announced plans to retire. If Republicans succeed in flipping just one seat in their favor, they will regain a majority in the chamber, breaking the Democrats’ governing trifecta.
Georgia Gov. Kemp, a Republican, will also face re-election in 2022. Unlike Perdue, the governor publicly pushed back against Trump, angering Trump’s supporters.
Georgia’s GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will also be up for re-election. He made headlines in early January when his office leaked recorded audio from a call with Trump where the former president allegedly urged Raffensperger to “find” ballots that would deliver him a win in the state. With the Senate, Secretary of State and governor spots up for grabs, Georgia Republicans will get a chance to decide the former president’s role in the future of their party.