David Alfred Perdue Jr. (/pərˈduː/; born December 10, 1949) is an American businessman and politician. A member of the Republican Party, he has served as the senior United States Senator for Georgia since 2015.
Perdue was raised in Warner Robins, Georgia, and graduated from Northside High School in 1968. He left Warner Robins to start school at the United States Air Force Academy on June 23, 1968, after receiving an appointment from Congressman Jack Brinkley of Georgia.
Perdue married Bonnie Dunn in August 1972. The couple lives in Sea Island, Georgia. They had a daughter who died in infancy and have two sons, David A. Perdue III and Blake Perdue, and three grandchildren. David Perdue Jr. is the first cousin of United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia.
Perdue began his career at Kurt Salmon Associates, an international consulting firm, where he worked for 12 years as a management consultant. His first major corporate job was as senior vice president of Asia operations for Sara Lee Corporation, a position he took in 1992. His time at Sara Lee was followed by a stint at Haggar Clothing, where he became senior vice president of operations in 1994.
In 1998, Perdue joined Reebok as a senior vice president, eventually rising to president and CEO of the Reebok Brand. He is credited with rejuvenating its sneaker line. Perdue negotiated a contract with the National Football League that a former Reebok executive called "revolutionary" for repositioning the company's shoe brand.
Perdue left Reebok in June 2002 to become the CEO of PillowTex, a North Carolina textile company. The company had recently emerged from bankruptcy with a heavy debt load and an underfunded pension liability. Unable to obtain additional funding from the company's investors or find a buyer for the company, he left the company in 2003 after nine months on the job and $1.7 million in compensation. An internal auditor noted that Perdue's long absences from its North Carolina Headquarters was "terrible for morale. We felt he'd given up." Pillowtex closed several months later, leaving 7,650 workers out of work nationwide. With more than 4,000 jobs lost statewide, Pillowtex's closure resulted in the largest single-day job loss in North Carolina history at the time.
After 12 years as a management consultant, Perdue was the senior vice president for Reebok, leaving to become the CEO of PillowTex, a North Carolina textile company. He left the company in 2003 after nine months and $1.7 million in compensation. An internal auditor noted that Perdue's long absences from its headquarters was "terrible for morale. We felt he'd given up." Pillowtex closed several months later, leaving 7,650 workers out of work nationwide and resulting in the largest single-day job loss in North Carolina history with 4,000 jobs lost.
After leaving Pillowtex, Perdue became CEO of Dollar General. Before he joined the company, it had recently overstated profits by $100 million and paid $162 million to settle shareholder lawsuits. Perdue overhauled the company's inventory line and logistics network and updated its marketing strategy. After initially closing hundreds of stores, the company doubled its stock price and opened 2,600 new stores. Perdue is credited for arranging the sale of Dollar General in 2007 to private equity investors KKR. He reportedly earned $42 million after the deal and Dollar General paid millions of dollars to settle shareholder lawsuits alleging that Perdue and other executives undersold shareholders.
Perdue opposes the Common Core plan, which Georgia Republican leaders adopted in 2010, and then turned against. Perdue said he supported "the original intent" of Common Core but took issue with "the details" and "how it's going to be administered," saying "Common Core has become overreaching and should be abandoned."
From 2007 to 2009, Perdue worked as a senior consultant for Indian chemical and textile conglomerate Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Ltd. In April 2011, he started Perdue Partners, an Atlanta-based global trading firm, with his cousin, former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue. In 2012, Perdue Partners acquired Benton Express, an Atlanta-based logistics company.
Reports also highlighted the overlap between Perdue's role as a Director of the Georgia Ports Authority from 2010 to 2013 and his founding with his cousin and former Governor Sonny Perdue of Perdue Partners, which acquired in 2012 a global logistics firm that provided transloading services at the Georgia ports.
No candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the November 3 election, so there will be a January 2021 runoff between Perdue and Ossoff. After failing to get more than 50% of the vote in the November election, Perdue claimed without evidence that there had been "failures" in the election, and called for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's resignation. Raffensperger is a Republican for whom Perdue campaigned in the 2018 Georgia Secretary of State race. During that campaign, Perdue claimed without evidence that the Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, was trying to "steal this race." Nunn had also been Perdue's opponent in 2014.
Perdue has praised Trump's response to the pandemic. Asked why he criticized Obama for his response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 (with four cases and two deaths in the country) but praised Trump's response to the coronavirus in 2020, he said, "It's a totally different situation." In September 2020, after the release of recordings from February and March in which Trump admitted he intentionally downplayed the severity of the coronavirus threat, Perdue said Trump was "trying to manage the psyche of the country" and to "look at what he did."
Perdue subsequently served as CEO of Dollar General. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2014, defeating Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn.
Perdue opposes same-sex marriage. After the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional in 2015, he co-sponsored legislation to allow federal contractors and employees to oppose same-sex marriage on the grounds of moral or religious convictions.
In January and February 2016, Perdue invested in Halyard stocks shortly before and after the Senate first held a hearing on the opioid epidemic in the United States. Halyard sold medical devices that could assist in providing alternatives to opioids. The stock was worth up to $150,000. Perdue sold the stock around seven months later, profiting between 33% to 54%.
In June 2016, at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority conference, Perdue said, "We should pray for Barack Obama. But I think we need to be very specific about how we pray. We should pray like Psalms 109:8 says. It says, 'Let his days be few, and let another have his office'". In a statement, Perdue's office clarified: "He in no way wishes harm to our president and everyone in the room understood that".
In 2017, Perdue and Tom Cotton co-sponsored the RAISE Act, an immigration reductionist proposal that would cut legal immigration to the United States by 50% over 10 years, restrict the family reunification part of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, eliminate the diversity visa lottery, and create a points-based immigration system that would favor skilled immigrants.
In May 2020, Perdue argued that the United States "had ordinary flu seasons with more deaths" than the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. At the time, there were over 80,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the country, while the average deaths for flu over the previous 10 years was under 40,000 deaths per year, with 61,000 deaths in 2017–2018. As predicted by medical experts, COVID-19 is much deadlier than the flu, as the death toll in the United States rose above 240,000 within the year.
Perdue opposes the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and has voted to repeal it. In 2017, he supported replacing Obamacare with the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The Congressional Budget Office projected that 22 million fewer Americans would be insured by 2026 with this bill than if Obamacare remained. The Urban Institute projected that the Better Care Reconciliation Act would have resulted in 376,000 more Georgians lacking health insurance. Ultimately, no measure to replace Obamacare in 2017 succeeded.
Perdue rejects climate change. He has criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and supported Trump's appointment of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator, saying in 2017, "Outside of eliminating the EPA altogether, Scott Pruitt is the next best thing." Perdue was one of 22 Republican senators to sign a letter to Trump urging him to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he received over $180,000 from oil, gas and coal interests between 2012 and 2017. As of 2020, Perdue lives in a private beachfront community that is building sea walls to combat sea level rise, a known effect of climate change.
Since Perdue took office, he has been the Senate's most prolific trader of stocks, funds or shares, making almost one third of all trades among members, roughly equivalent to the combined sum of trades conducted by the second- to sixth-most active traders in the Senate. Many trades are in companies with interests in the committees Perdue sits on, including banks, cybersecurity firms, and defense firms. For example, as part of the Senate Banking Committee, he regularly traded in stock of the Regions Financial bank in 2017 and early 2018. During that period, Perdue co-sponsored a Senate bill that would reduce financial regulations on medium-sized banks such as Regions. His proposed deregulations became law in May 2018, and Region's stock had risen by 35% since Perdue bought its shares.
In February 2017, Perdue attempted to remove regulations the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had imposed on the prepaid debit card industry. The regulations were not removed, but they were scaled down, with Perdue taking credit in May 2017 for having solicited "significant concessions". From June 2017 to April 2019, he actively invested in First Data, a prepaid card company. The Daily Beast reported that Perdue's transactions of First Data stocks "coincided with both policy announcements affecting the company and a major merger that sent its stock price soaring." Perdue’s office said that the transactions were done by his financial advisers, and that they operated independently from him. His office also denied that he knew of the merger before it happened.
In March 2017, Perdue co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a bill that would make it a federal crime for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if protesting actions by the Israeli government.
In December 2017, Perdue voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. He voted for the 2017 budget, which could add as much as $1.5 trillion to deficits over ten years, because he said the tax cuts could lead to more revenue due to the economic growth they would encourage.
During his 2020 reelection campaign, Perdue said he "always believed in protections for Americans with preexisting conditions", and that "health insurance should always cover preexisting conditions. For anyone." PolitiFact rated this claim "false", noting Perdue's opposition to Obamacare and support of policies that would allow insurers not to cover all preexisting conditions. Perdue co-sponsored the PROTECT Act (which was not voted on in the Senate), which would have allowed insurers to refuse coverage if they "will not have the capacity to deliver services adequately." In 2018, Perdue also supported longer extensions for short-term health insurance plans, which can exclude coverage for preexisting conditions. A spokesperson for Perdue said that PolitiFact "cherry-picked select information to draw a misleading conclusion".
On January 11, 2018, Perdue attended a meeting at the White House at which, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation, Trump called Haiti, El Salvador and African countries "shithole nations" and said the United States should not take in immigrants from them. Perdue said he did not recall Trump making those statements. Three days later, on ABC's This Week, Perdue changed his position, saying definitively that Trump "did not use that word", and that the accusation was "a gross misrepresentation". Three White House officials told the Washington Post that Perdue privately expressed belief that Trump had said "shithouse", not "shithole".
In April 2018, Perdue signed a letter asking the Trump administration to respond to revelations that North Korea was supplying some components of chemical weapons in Syria.
In September 2018, Perdue was one of six Republican senators (along with Jeff Flake, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey), as well as Bernie Sanders, who voted against a $854 billion spending bill for the Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor and Education departments, meant to avoid a government shutdown.
On October 13, 2018, Perdue visited the Georgia Tech campus to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp. During his visit, a Georgia Tech student approached Perdue and asked him a question about voter suppression. Perdue snatched away the student's phone, which was recording the exchange. The student filed civil suit, alleging unlawful battery.
In 2019, Perdue wrote Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a letter expressing concern that owners of professional sports teams could not take advantage of certain tax breaks. No other senators signed that letter. Sports team owners and their family members have donated over $425,000 to Perdue's political campaigns. Perdue requested Mnuchin change the regulation to benefit the owners, but Mnuchin made no change. Perdue's 2020 campaign attributed the request to Perdue's history of having a leadership position in a sportswear company such as Reebok.
Shortly before becoming chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower in January 2019, with jurisdiction over the Navy, Perdue bought $190,000 of stock in BWX Technologies, which builds nuclear power components for submarines. He had never invested in BWX before. Later, Perdue secured almost $5 billion in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to build Virginia-class nuclear submarines built with BWX parts. He profited between $15,000 and $50,000 (according to his financial filings) when he sold the shares while writing the bill. His office reiterated that he was not personally involved in the stock-trading decisions.
In June 2019, Perdue supported Trump's decision to place tariffs on Mexico unless illegal immigration from Mexico stopped. Perdue said, "He has to use a hammer. We're being invaded right now."
In November 2019, at the White House’s request, Perdue blocked a vote on recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
Perdue became Georgia's senior senator after Johnny Isakson resigned on December 31, 2019.
Perdue is running for reelection in 2020 against Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. As neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the November 3 election, they face each other in a January 2021 runoff election. After the November election, Perdue called for the resignation of Georgia's top elections official (a fellow Republican) and claimed without evidence that there were unspecified "failures" in the election.
Perdue is running for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2020. During the campaign, he has repeatedly made false claims that his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, is "endorsed" by the Communist Party of the United States. Perdue also ran an ad in which Ossoff's nose was enlarged; the apparent use of an anti-Semitic trope was criticized as a dog-whistle reference to Ossoff's Jewish heritage. The ad also featured Ossoff's image next to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, both of whom are Jewish, and said Democrats are trying to "buy Georgia," with a link to raise funds for Perdue's campaign. His campaign pulled the ad after receiving criticism, saying it was an "inadvertent error" and that his design firm had applied a filter that distorted the image.
In January 2020, Perdue expressed support for the US military's assassination of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani by drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport.
On January 23, 2020, Perdue directed his financial advisers to sell over $1 million in stock of the finance firm Cardlytics weeks before its shares fell significantly. Two days before the sale, Cardlytics's CEO sent Perdue an email mentioning "upcoming changes", then later said he had sent the email to the wrong person. The Department of Justice investigated this incident, and concluded that Perdue had not engaged in insider trading. After Cardlytics' shares fell, he bought between $200,000 and $500,000 of their shares in March; these shares more than quadrupled their value by November 2020.
On January 24, 2020, Perdue bought around $65,000 of stock in DuPont, a company that makes personal protective equipment, on the same day as a private Senate briefing on the spread of COVID-19. Over the next few months, he bought and sold around $5.8 million and $5.6 million worth of stocks, respectively. Perdue bought up to $245,000 in stocks of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, and sold up to $165,000 in stocks of the casino Caesars Entertainment, which closed its doors during the pandemic. His stock-trading activity sharply increased in March 2020. In May 2020, after his portfolio was scrutinized, Perdue announced that his financial advisers would no longer buy and sell individual stocks. He and his fellow Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler were criticized for their stock-trading during the coronavirus pandemic, with allegations of insider trading. Perdue has said advisers made the trades without his influence. The Senate Ethics Committee investigated the incident, and in June 2020 privately concluded that it "did not find evidence that [Perdue's] actions violated federal law, Senate Rules, or standards of conduct".
In late March 2020, regarding COVID-19, Perdue urged the public to "follow the advice of public health officials: stay home if you are sick; wash your hands frequently with soap and water; keep a safe distance from others. If you are experiencing symptoms, call your health care provider right away." In May, June and July 2020, he called for Americans to wear masks to manage the outbreak. With regard to pandemic's effects, Perdue has assisted small businesses by joining the Paycheck Protection Program.
Also in May 2020, when medical experts criticized Georgia for ending lockdowns too early, Perdue declared support for the end of the lockdown: "We’ve got to get this economy open again. We’re on the back side of the cycle." Georgia experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases in July and August 2020.
In October 2020, Perdue made international news by mocking Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris by repeatedly mispronouncing her name, which is of South Asian origin. In the campaign appearance, Perdue called Harris "Kah-mah-la or Kah-ma-la or Kamamboamamla", which drew scattered laughter from the crowd. Commentators noted that Perdue, who has served with Harris in the Senate since 2017, undoubtedly knows how to pronounce her name, and some said he deliberately pretended otherwise to appeal to a largely white audience. A spokesman for Perdue responded to the criticism, "Senator Perdue simply mispronounced Senator Harris's name, and he didn't mean anything by it."
As of the start of December 2020, outside groups had spent $84.2 million supporting Perdue in the election, compared to $44.4 million supporting Ossoff. Global warming denialist Charles Koch's Americans for Prosperity Action Super PAC has spent $440,000 on digital ads and canvassing supporting Perdue's runoff campaign.