One of the factors that has made a path to victory more difficult for Nathan Deal and David Perdue is Georgia’s economy. Job losses in manufacturing and construction during the great recession led to the Peach State having the highest unemployment rate in the country as voters go to the polls next week. It’s not just blue collar workers that have been hurt. Georgia also led the nation in bank failures, which dried up funds that could have been used for business growth and expansion in all economic sectors.
While the effects of the recession have weighed especially hard on the Deal campaign, today’s New York Times takes a look at how the closing of factories and the loss of Georgia’s manufacturing base has affected the candidacy of GOP Senate candidate David Perdue.
With a dateline of Cartersville, the story cites one former worker at that city’s shuttered Sara Lee apparel plant:
Diane Barnette, who spent 26 years working at the Sara Lee apparel plant here, had never heard Mr. Perdue’s name when he was in charge of building the company’s presence in Asia. But she believes she saw his handiwork.
She worked her way up from sewing machine operator to plant manager, watching as jobs moved overseas and until the plant finally closed in 1995. Her introduction to Mr. Perdue came more recently, in a campaign advertisement attacking him as the man responsible for her career’s demise. She would never vote for him, said Ms. Barnette, 69, who finished her working days at a car dealership earning a fraction of her previous salary. But she does not hold him personally responsible.
Perdue maintains that no one individual is responsible for the loss of jobs in the textile industry. He has tried to push back against the Michelle Nunn campaign’s attempt to highlight his experience in outsourcing as a cause of the loss of manufacturing jobs.
To Mr. Perdue, all of these attacks are “sleights of hand.” He said that he had a right to protect contractual perks already paid out by Pillowtex from unsecured creditors trying to take them back and that he had tried to save Pillowtex and now was being pilloried for it. And, he said, he had nothing to do with the three Sara Lee plants closed in Cartersville, Milledgeville and Wrightsville, Ga. He was living in Hong Kong at the time, expanding Sara Lee operations in Asia.
“I was in another hemisphere doing something totally independent of that, and they know it,” he said of the Nunn campaign.
In September, many political observers had David Perdue winning the Senate race without a runoff. While that’s still possible, recent polling points to a runoff or even an outright Michelle Nunn win. While it’s probably irrelevant whether Perdue was directly responsible for the loss of jobs in Georgia, it’s pretty clear that his outsourcing past has come back to haunt him in the closing days of the Senate race.