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Carter surprised how rough campaign was

POSTED: July 24, 2014 7:24 p.m.
Photo by Pat Donahue/

Buddy Carter

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SAVANNAH — Buddy Carter is hoping to mend fences within the Republican party, after he won the nomination Tuesday night for the U.S. House 1st District seat.

Carter, a state senator from Pooler, edged Dr. Bob Johnson in the runoff for the right to face Brian Reese. The winner of the November general election between Carter and Reese will succeed Rep. Jack Kingston.

“It’s been nip-and-tuck and back-and-forth, but we finally prevailed,” Carter said to supporters gathered Tuesday night at the Hyatt. “And now is the time for all of us to come together. The Republican party is a big party. We cover a lot of people. This was not a battle of values or a battle of ideals, but more of a battle of two people who really wanted to represent the 1st Congressional District. I invite him and his supporters to join us.”

Carter outpolled Johnson 1,422-805 in Effingham County and claimed the 17-county district with a 22,861-16,621 margin, taking 53.8 percent of the vote.

The GOP runoff took a sharp and acidic turn, with a series of bitter campaign television commercials. Carter said after the vote was decided that he anticipated a tough campaign, but it wound up being rougher than he expected. The infusion of $400,000 from Washington, D.C., Carter said, led to a different tenor of the race.

“That was a big hit,” he said. “When you get $400,000 thrown toward your opponent, you’ve got to make that up. We were very proud of the fact that we had a grassroots campaign. We got a donation from every county in the district. That was important to us. Over 80 percent of our money came from within the district.”

According to Federal Elections Commission filings, Johnson’s campaign had spent more than $820,000. Carter’s campaign has spent more than $880,000 — with the general election still more than three months away.

Reese, who garnered 63.1 percent of the vote in the Democratic runoff, with 6,526 votes, has raised $11,465 as of July 2.

“We have another race to go,” Carter said. “We’re not going to take that for granted. It is important for us to pull together as a party, to pull together as a nation.”

Kingston, who has represented the 1st District for 11 terms, gave up running for his seat to pursue the open U.S. Senate seat and replace the retiring Saxby Chambliss. Kingston lost a close race to Golden Isles businessman David Perdue. Perdue claimed 50.9 percent of the statewide vote and edged Kingston by fewer than 8,000 votes cast out of more than 482,000 ballots. Perdue will face Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in November.

“We’ve got big shoes to fill with Jack Kingston,” Carter said. “Those are very big shoes. This is an important position. We’ve got to grow our majority in the House.”

Carter said there weren’t many differences between Johnson and himself philosophically.

“Both of us believe in conservative values,” he said. “The fact I was born and bred here, we raised a family here, I think all that played in.”

Carter announced his intention to run for Congress just days after Kingston said he would seek the Senate seat. Carter believes his team now has the experience to continue the campaign.

“We’ve been at this for a year and a half. It’s not like we started this a couple of months ago,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a long, long time. I’m very proud of the work our team has done. This is a giant step for us and we’re looking forward to it.”

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