ATLANTA — From start to finish, David Perdue’s campaign has been primarily about applying his perspective as a former corporate head to reining in the federal budget.

“We have a financial and government crisis on our hands,” he says on the stump. “It’s real. It’s right now. It’s very serious. I have 41 years in business. I bring a different perspective to this. I think I can help.”

How individual Georgians would benefit, he says, is in greater opportunities to start or grow a company, find a job or have more money in their pockets.

Toward that goal, he wants to reduce federal spending on education, repeal the Affordable Care Act and relax environmental regulation.

That’s the heart of the election, because his primary opponent, Democrat Michelle Nunn — while agreeing some spending, taxes and red tape should be trimmed — generally supports federal involvement in education, healthcare and environmental regulation.

In the course of the last 12 months since he began his campaign, he’s taken stands on other issues, almost always in the conservative corner. He opposes the Common Core multi-state education standards and limits on gun rights while supporting traditional marriage, term limits and strict enforcement of immigration laws.

He made some initial missteps where his off-the-cuff remarks made him seem too moderate for Republican primary voters, and so he adopted traditional conservative talking points to defeat four experienced, very conservative politicians to become the GOP standard bearer.

“The vocabulary of politics is just unbelievable,” he said during the primary. “You just have to be so careful, I believe, with the terminology.”

The child of educators, he grew up in Warner Robbins, graduated from Georgia Tech with advanced degrees, wedded his hometown sweetheart — who he’s still married to — and spent a career climbing to the top of the corporate ladder.

“You run on a business career, so people deserve to know what that career involved,” Nunn said in a recent debate.

So, his corporate resume has come into scrutiny. Two chapters have become fodder for opponents’ attacks, both during the primary and during the general election.

One deals with a North Carolina textile firm he headed for less than a year that folded shortly after his departure, leaving 8,000 workers out of a job while he pocketed a $1.7 million compensation package.

“He left all of us sitting here holding the bag with nothing in it,” former Pillowtex employee Phyllis Grimes says in a Nunn commercial.

He argues he was trying to save those jobs in an industry where most companies had already succumbed to overseas competitors thriving on wrongheaded American policies.

“Pillowtex had been in bankruptcy for years, and I’ll say the same thing now that I said then: It’s a tragedy of national proportions. It was created by our federal government,” he said in a televised debate last month.

The other chapter deals with a legal settlement made by Dollar General after he had stepped down as CEO. It resulted from a class-action discrimination complaint by female store managers alleging they were paid less than male counterparts during Perdue’s tenure. The candidate downplayed it when Nunn brought it up in the debate, “There was no wrongdoing there. That lawsuit — or that complaint, or that claim — was settled five years after I was there. She knows that,” he said. “It was less than 2,000 people. We had upwards of 70,000 employees in that company.”

Of course, human resources is not a major part of a senator’s job, but opponents have used the two incidents as evidence that he is a rich man who’s out of touch with ordinary Georgians’ concerns.

Such attacks wound him personally. He is proud of his time at Dollar General as a corporate-turnaround expert who restored it to prosperity. And he considers himself a devout Christian.

“If I were out of touch, there is no way that I would have been successful in a competitive business career,” he said, adding that he could have never marketed to bargain-conscious consumers at Dollar General or motivated rank-and-file employees as Reebok CEO without an understanding of their needs.

Beyond discussion of specific issues or his corporate personnel file, another aspect of the election is drawing national attention — and money for negative ads — Senate control. An individual senator can’t accomplish much working alone, so the party they affiliate with largely determines what they can achieve.

As a Republican, Perdue would aid other Republicans in advancing the party’s agenda and stalling proposals of President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats. Perdue terms the choice as a vote for Nunn amounts to support of the unpopular president while a Perdue vote equals rejection.

Which party winds up with a controlling majority in the Senate could come down to the Georgia election. A GOP majority would make Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, giving the state a little more clout in Washington. It would also give Republicans a veto over Obama’s nominees for a lifetime appointment to federal courts, resulting in a long-term impact.

Follow Walter Jones on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at


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