The political world was mildly surprised on Tuesday, when David Perdue—a billionaire former CEO and cousin of a former governor who has never held elected office—won the Republican nomination for Senate in a runoff in Georgia. Perdue was up against Jack Kingston, a longtime congressman from Savannah; Kingston had been ahead in every public poll since the first round of balloting back in May.
But on Election Day, Perdue narrowly prevailed, 51 percent to 49 percent. As upsets go, it was relatively minor—nothing on the order of Eric Cantor's shocking defeat in last month's primary in Virginia. But Kingston's loss may have had something in common with Cantor's: In both cases, a Republican candidate was rejected by primary voters after being accused of being soft on illegal immigration.
Cantor's loss—to a no-name opponent who, backed by talk radio, hammered him for supposedly supporting immigration reform—occasioned days of handwringing about its impact on policymaking. Immigration's role in Kingston's defeat has received less attention. In the final days of the campaign, Perdue ran a television ad attacking Kingston for his support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business lobby that supports immigration reform and invested heavily in Kingston. "Kingston's largest backer, who has pumped almost $3 million into Kingston TV ads, is 100 percent, openly pro amnesty," the ad said. "Kingston now owes them big. Career politician Jack Kingston: Backed by amnesty supporters. Wrong for Georgia."