Here’s another piece of advice to Senate candidates: Don’t belittle your opponent for her education level before checking your state’s figures first.
That’s the mistake that Georgia Republican Senate front-runner David Perdue made in a video released this week. In an attempt to distinguish his qualifications from those of his opponent, former state Secretary of State Karen Handel, he took a shot at her lack of higher education.
“There’s a high school graduate in this race, OK?” he said at one of his campaign headquarters. “I’m sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex.”
Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General, has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Georgia Tech.
The problem here for Perdue, however, is twofold. First, he discounts Handel’s backstory. She left an abusive home at 17 and finished high school while holding a job. After working her way up in her job and in Republican politics, she never finished college. Second, her education level matches that of many Georgians.
According to census statistics, only 27.8 percent of Georgians over age 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, while 84.4 percent have a high school diploma. For the 72.2 percent of Georgians without that college degree, Perdue’s boast may tell them they’re not smart enough for higher office.
And as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out, neither Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle nor Rep. Lynn Westmoreland has a college degree.
The Perdue campaign attempted to defend the video, telling The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “David was simply making the case that he is the most qualified person in this race to help get our economy back on track,” and continuing, “His comment was based on facts that are a matter of public record.”
Current polls show Perdue leading the seven-person GOP field that also includes Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston, but the race remains relatively tight. The Republican primary is set for May 20.
Perdue obviously tuned out of the news two weeks ago when Rep. Bruce Braley derided the credentials and humble upbringing of another politician.