Who is David Perdue? 8 things to know about the Georgia senator

Republican Sen. David Perdue will face off against challenger Jon Ossoff for a Georgia Senate seat in a closely watched race Tuesday. 

According to the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, the competitors are essentially tied, with Ossoff leading the Republican one-time incumbent by one percentage point, 46-45.

Here’s what to know about Sen. David Perdue: 

He is the first cousin of Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue

Perdue is the first cousin of President Trump’s agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, who is formerly a governor of Georgia. David Perdue’s foray into public service began when his then-governor cousin appointed him to the powerful Georgia Ports Authority in 2010. 

The pair started an Atlanta-based global trading firm together in 2011, Perdue Partners. 

Like his cousin, David Perdue has remained a close ally of Trump’s. 

Some of his only public criticism of the president revolved around the issue of tariffs. Perdue was reluctant to support Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum but eventually came to do so. 

Senator David Perdue, R-Ga., asks questions during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 6, 2020. (Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS)

Senator David Perdue, R-Ga., asks questions during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 6, 2020. (Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS)

He met his wife in the first grade 

Perdue grew up in Middle Georgia the son of two public school teachers. He met his wife, Bonnie, in first grade and the pair have been married for 48 years, his campaign told Fox News. Bonnie Perdue was a special needs teacher for many years. 

Perdue went on to Georgia Tech, where he earned a degree in engineering while working warehouse and construction jobs. 

One of his first jobs was with a Headstart program to teach low-income children how to read, and he later served on the National Commission on Adult Literacy for about a decade, working with government agencies to advance ways to help children and adults learn to read. 

He has a successful business background 

A former Fortune 500 CEO, Perdue has earned a reputation as a turnaround wizard for struggling brands. 

Perdue began his career working as a management consultant for 12 years. His first major corporate job was senior vice president at Sara Lee Corporations, and eventually he moved on to become the CEO of Reebok Brand. He’s credited with revitalizing the company name to make it competitive with Nike, negotiating high-stakes contracts with the NFL, NBA and NHL.

He then took a job as CEO at Pillowtex, a textile company in North Carolina that was fraught with financial difficulty. Unable to find additional funding for the company or a buyer, he left a short time later. The company soon shut down. 

Later, Perdue became CEO of Dollar General, which was struggling at the time. After initially closing hundreds of stores, the company doubled its stock price and opened 2,600 new stores.

Perdue was known for his hands-on approach with the company and would frequently go “undercover boss” at various store locations to get to know employees. 

Perdue helped engineer a buyout of the company from KKR, a private equity giant. He earned $42 million after the deal, but Dollar General reportedly had to pay out just as much in lawsuits alleging Perdue and other top executives earned big profits while underselling shareholders. 

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He loves Chick-fil-A

Perdue’s Chick-fil-A order is a Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich and a peach milkshake when it’s in season.

He’s one of the wealthiest members in the Senate

Unsurprisingly, Perdue is one of the wealthiest members in the Senate. He has a net worth of $15.8 million, according to a Roll Call count. He funded his 2014 campaign for an open Senate seat with $3.9 million of his own money.

Perdue keeps $14 million in the stock market and has a $1 million-plus mortgage.

Senator is the only public office he’s held 

Frustrated with what he saw as a growing national security crisis and a massive national debt crisis, Perdue ran for Senate in 2014 as his first public office.

A strong advocate for term limits, this will be Perdue’s first and only reelection campaign. 

His coronavirus stock trades came under fire 

Perdue was one of a number of lawmakers whose stock trades came under fire early in the coronavirus pandemic.

Records show that following a Jan. 24 Senate briefing on the threat of coronavirus, Perdue purchased somewhere between $63,000 and $245,000 worth of stock in Pfizer, a company now working to develop a coronavirus vaccine. 

He made a number of purchases of stock in DuPont de Nemours, a chemical company that supplies personal protective equipment. One purchase on the same day as the members-only briefing was for $65,000.

Perdue said he was not involved in the trade. “I have had an outside professional that manages my personal finances and I’m not involved in the day-to-day,” he said in a statement. 

Perdue challenger Jon Ossof continued to hit the senator for his trades in a debate Wednesday. 

“Perhaps Sen. Perdue would have been able to respond properly to the COVID-19 pandemic if you hadn’t been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading,” Ossoff said, adding, “It’s not just that you’re a crook, Senator, it’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent.”

Perdue has repeatedly said he welcomes a full review of his stock trades and claimed he was “completely” cleared by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee. 

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Democrats accused him of using an anti-Semitic trope and mispronouncing Kamala Harris’ name on purpose

In July, Perdue’s campaign took down a Facebook ad that critics say enlarged the nose of competitor Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish.

The ad featured a grainy photograph of Ossoff and Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is also Jewish. “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!” the ad said, noting that Schumer had poured millions into the race. 

“This is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history,” Ossoff said in a statement soon after. 

A Perdue campaign spokeswoman said the enlargement was an “unintentional error” caused by an “outside vendor” and that Perdue has a “strong and consistent record of standing firmly against anti-Semitism.”

Perdue also came under fire from Democrats when he struggled to pronounce Sen. Kamala Harris’ name at a Trump rally despite having served in the Senate alongside her. “Bernie and Elizabeth and Kah-mah-la or Kah-ma-la or Kamamalamamla or however you say it,” Perdue said to the crowd. 

“Well that is incredibly racist,” Sabrina Singh, Harris’ press secretary, said on Twitter. “Vote him out and vote for @ossoff.”

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“Well, I absolutely meant no disrespect, I’ve said that publicly to Sen. Harris,” Perdue said at a debate Wednesday.