Perdue then went on to speak to a crowd of about 60 gathered at the Wingate Hotel in Kennesaw.
Among those in attendance was Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy, who predicted a runoff among the Republican candidates after the May 20 primary.
Other Republican candidates include U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah), U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Athens), U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), former Secretary of State Karen Handel, attorney Art Gardner of east Cobb, MARTA engineer Derrick Grayson of Stone Mountain, and Eugene Yu, founder of Continental Military Services Inc., a supplier of military-grade armaments.
Roll Call has reported Perdue’s wealth ranging from $27 million to $83 million. Perdue laughed when asked if this was a fair estimate.
“That’s a pretty broad range. The disclosure rules are really kind of arcane, but yeah,” he said. “I complied with the federal disclosure laws and those are the numbers that the federal disclosure laws estimate.”
The businessman said he has a war chest of between $2.5 million to $3 million, of which $1.5 million came from his own bank account. He predicts the primary will cost him between $4 million and $5 million.
A cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, David Perdue, 64, lives in Sea Island with his wife, Bonnie. They have two sons and three grandchildren.
He is not happy with the state of education. In 1975, American students were No. 1 in the world in math and science, he said. Now they’re 25th and 26th.
“Today, we spent $71 billion in our Department of Education in Washington. In 2009, we only spent $32 billion,” he said.
The outcome of that spending is that one in three children in the U.S. will not graduate high school.
“The current method that we’re educating our kids has failed us,” he said.
The problem, Perdue said, is that too many decisions have been taken away from parents and teachers by an army of administrators, he said. When Perdue was in high school there was a principal and assistant principal in charge of the school.
“Today, there are multiple assistant principals, they’ve got various responsibilities. I would argue that that might not be productive in terms of preparing a kid to read and to learn math and science,” he said.
While there was less spending per capita on students in 1975, students were performing academically better than they are today, he said. The solution is not throwing more money at schools, although Perdue does believe teachers deserve a competitive salary so as to attract the best and brightest.
“Having said that one exception, yes, I think we’ve proven that over 30 years we can’t just throw more money at it and expect better results because that hasn’t worked,” he said.
Perdue said he’s spoken at length with his cousin, the former governor who was involved on the front end of helping to launch the Common Core Standards. For the most part, he said the two are in agreement on the controversial topic.
“The original intent, I agree with that. It’s where it gets into the details, into the weeds of how it’s going to be administered, that’s where I have a problem with that,” the senate candidate said.
Common Core was launched by Republican governors a few years ago to standardize the outcome of any school whether that school was in Georgia or Alaska, he said.
“Well, I can’t argue with that thesis, that objective. Now, what happens is the federal government takes that over and it somehow gets convoluted that we now want to dictate how do you manage the curriculum around that.”
Perdue points out that Common Core is not a curriculum, but a set of standards.
“But that’s where people’s fears come out, and frankly, when President Obama came out in support of Common Core, it’s when a lot of people got very nervous about it,” he said. “They said, ‘Well, what’s the intent here?’ And so I think you have to be very careful, and let’s go back to the thesis here that I’m talking about. I think if you move more money out of Washington back to the states, back to local communities, you get better results. However, I still think that having a standardized expectation from state to state is probably worthwhile.”
Perdue said he supports Gov. Deal’s move parting ways with the testing component of Common Core.
“I think the governor has laid out a direction and I’m in agreement with that,” he said. “I don’t like the testing and I have no problem with laying it out as a set of standards, but let us determine how we’re going to do that.”
On medical marijuana, gay marriage
The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration Friday gave the banking industry approval to do business with legal marijuana sellers. Perdue was asked what he thought about this.
“I’m not a doctor, but the only use of marijuana that I would support today would be the medical use of it,” he said. “The two doctors in this race have both said that that would be acceptable to them. I’ve talked to other physicians that think it’s a valuable tool to use. I’m basing this on medical thought that that is a tool to use against some treatments for cancer and so forth, and if that can be used medicinally, I would be OK with that.”
Loosening restrictions on the use of medical marijuana in Georgia is a decision for the state Legislature, he said.
“But as a senator, I’m telling you that I’m going to support the law of the land in the state of Georgia, that’s first of all, second of all, that the medicinal use of it is something that I would be receptive to,” he said.
As for supporting or opposing the right of same-sex Georgians to marry, Perdue said Georgians have already passed a constitutional amendment banning that action.
“As a senator, I’ve got to uphold that, so I support that, whatever the law of the land is in Georgia,” he said. “As a U.S. senator, I’m not going to get involved in state decisions like this. It’s a constitutional amendment. If that changes, then I will support that with the population.”
Pro-life and common sense
State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb), a registered nurse, has in recent years tangled with Georgia Right to Life over her pro-life stance. Cooper opposes abortion but would allow exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother, the same position as that of the National Right to Life organization. But that’s not acceptable for Georgia Right to Life, which allows exceptions only to save the life of the mother. Perdue explained where he stood on the controversial topic.
“Look, I am pro-life, first of all, and that’s a deeply held personal conviction, and these are personal issues, and I think we’re responsible to protect innocent life,” he said. “And I think there are times when there are two innocent lives that need to be considered. If the life of the mother is threatened, somebody needs to make that decision. I don’t think that should be the federal government. I think that should be left to that family — that mother and that family. Likewise, when you get into it, that logic holds true, but then you get into OK, what happens if your 13-year-old daughter is raped? What would you do? It’s one thing to stand up and beat your chest and, ‘Oh, no, no exception, no exception,’ but what would you do, and that’s where I come back and that needs to be the decision of that family, in my opinion.”
Perdue, who has two sons, said he doesn’t know what he would do if faced with that scenario.
“I don’t know. I don’t have a 13-year-old daughter. But I’d like to have the flexibility, you know, I’m just telling you straight up,” he said.
In other words, he said he shares Cooper’s position that he’s pro-life, but there needs to be certain caveats.
“Well, I think so. This is not a black and white issue. We need to protect innocent life, but there are situations where I think common sense needs to play,” he said.
Immigration and campus carry
Perdue was asked what he thought about a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants who live in the country illegally. Before that can be addressed, the border must be secured, he answered.
“And until you decide that you’re going to do that, debating how you’re going to handle the pathway to citizenship for the 11 million for me is a counterproductive debate,” he said. “We know in the ’80s when the Republicans were in charge, we gave amnesty to everybody. Well what did that do for us? Nothing. Here we are 30 years later, got the same problem again. And I just think that we’ve got to deal with them separately and in my mind let’s face up, Republicans and Democrats, to the fact that we’ve got to secure our border.”
The Legislature has been debating this session allowing the use of guns on college campuses. Perdue, who serves on Georgia Tech’s foundation board, is not a fan of that idea.
“I’m not an administrator, but I’ve talked to people at various campuses,” he said. “Personally, I’m a defender of the Second Amendment. I have a problem with college campuses, with the availability to underage kids there. So my first blush reaction to that is no, I don’t agree with having guns on college campuses. I know there are some people that say, ‘No, that’s part of the Second Amendment right,’ but there’s a reason I believe that we have some exclusions to that.”
Snowden and the federal debt
Perdue is not a fan of Edward Snowden’s actions.
“I think he should be prosecuted for treason,” Perdue said.
Perdue does believe the National Security Agency has overreached its authority by spying on Americans and he blames Congress for failing to rein it in.
“You’ve got committees to do that. Why aren’t they doing it now?” he asked. “You’ve got control of budgets, but you also have the hearing capability, the bully pulpit if you will, bring people before the committee and expose if there are malpractice issues.”
He learned from a dinner with four secretaries of defense last year that the greatest threat to national security was not al-Qaida, Iran or China. It’s the federal debt.
“We have a $17 trillion debt. We have a $16 trillion economy,” Perdue said. “This is the first time since ’45 that we have a debt that’s larger than our economy. It’s the No. 1 threat to our national security. That’s bad enough, $17 trillion. But we have another $86 to $100 trillion dollars coming at us in future federal unfunded liabilities related to Social Security, Medicare and pension and benefits for federal employees. It’s unconscionable. And it’s coming at us.”
Perdue’s solution is honoring the obligations to anyone already receiving Social Security benefits, but changing the benefits for anyone coming into the workforce.
“Their deal is going to have to be different,” he said.
Perdue would make the same changes to Medicare.
As for pension and benefits, he’d follow the lead of Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Salaries for state and federal employees used to be low, but they were offset by plush benefits. Overtime, salaries became more competitive, yet the benefits remain “outrageous” compared to those in the private sector, he said.
There is growing angst among the American people with Washington D.C.
Congress’ approval rating is under 10 percent, yet the disconnect is the public re-elects 90 percent of incumbents, Perdue said.
“I just feel like we’re whining about the problems and not doing anything about it while this 800-pound gorilla is about to consume us, and that’s this debt crisis. I call it a crisis. Americans always do well when they recognize something as a crisis. If we had the Chinese at our border of California going into the Golden Gate Bridge, we wouldn’t be worried about liberal or conservative, or Democrat or Republican, we’d be shoulder to shoulder defending our country.”
THE DAVID PERDUE FILE:
Family: Wife, Bonnie, two sons, three grandchildren; cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue
Residence: Sea Island
Job: Former CEO of the Reebok brand and Dollar General