Rep. Jack Kingston is accumulating key endorsements in his bid for the Republican Senate nomination in Georgia, which will culminate in a July 22 runoff election against businessman David Perdue.
Kingston garnered 25.8 percent of the vote in the May primary, enough for second place behind Perdue's 30.6 percent. While Kingston lagged Perdue in the primary election, recent endorsements could put him over the top in the runoff.
Tea Party favorite Karen Handel, who finished third in the election with 22 percent of the vote, announced her support of Kingston last week.
Back in April, Perdue remarked that Handel was not ready for the Senate because she has only a high school diploma. The comment, which was widely criticized, likely sealed his fate with Handel.
Kingston was endorsed the same day by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which could have lent its muscle to Perdue, an avowed friend of business.
The chamber cut an ad featuring University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker, who runs several businesses when he's not beating up MMA fighters half his age. "I care deeply about Georgia's future,” the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner says in the ad. "That's why I want my friend Jack Kingston carrying the ball for us in Washington."
That was last week. This Wednesday, Kingston won another coup when fourth-place finisher Rep. Phil Gingrey endorsed his House colleague: "I'm happy to announce that I am supporting the gentleman from Savannah," Gingrey said.
Fifth-place finisher Rep. Paul Broun has not endorsed.
The odd coalition of Tea Party and establishment endorsements Kingston has amassed is partly the result of his well-established history in the state.
Kingston is an old hand to Georgia politics. He was first elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 1982 and to the U.S. House in 1992.
He has amassed a conservative voting record over 22 years in the House. The American Conservative Union scores Kingston's lifetime voting history as 95.62, where 100 indicates a perfect conservative record.
Perdue, the successful former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, is running against Kingston as a political outsider — a narrative he may further by referencing Kingston's "establishment" endorsements. While this is Perdue's first experience with electoral politics, he has always been close to power: cousin Sonny Perdue was governor from 2003 to 2011.
Whichever candidate wins the runoff will face the competent but uninspiring Democratic nominee, Michelle Nunn, in the November general election. Nunn is the daughter of Georgia's former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. The winner will take the Senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss, who is retiring.