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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Sen. David Perdue speaks to a crowd of supporters as former Governor Sonny Perdue looks on at the Dalton Municipal Airport on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue was in Dalton on Monday evening as part of his nine-leg flyover tour to kick off early voting in Georgia.

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue, Sen. Perdue's first cousin, was on hand as well to stump for the Republican in the hotly contested Senate race against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.

"David Perdue is one of those politicians I've seen come to D.C., and D.C. not change them but he's done his best to change D.C.," the former governor said. "That's the kind of politician I want, ones that take Georgia values to D.C."

Sen. Perdue urged people to get out and vote for the Republicans to hold the Senate and not have Georgia turn blue.

"We're reminding people what's at stake here relative to protecting what we've already gained in the last four years," Perdue said. "If we hold these two seats, we can protect America."

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Sen. Perdue visits Dalton

David Perdue has faced criticism for refusing to attend a debate with Ossoff. When asked why he didn't, Perdue joked that he "had a fishing trip."

Perdue said the two debated for the general election twice and that Ossoff had "lied to the people of Georgia."

As to the fishing trip joke, Perdue's staff later clarified that the senator spent the day of the debate campaigning in Houston County (where the Perdue family grew up) as part of the "Win Georgia, Save America Bus Tour."

In a campaign rally of his own Monday, Ossoff said he would gladly debate Perdue any time.

"David Perdue hasn't held a single public town hall meeting in six years," Ossoff said in Atlanta. "David Perdue is too much of a coward to debate me. David, if you're watching — I'm ready for you. I'm still ready."

Whitfield County is dealing with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the state on a per capita basis. Perdue said he encourages all Georgians to continue to follow health protocols, wash their hands and wear a mask.

"It's not over yet," he said. "take care of yourself, of the most vulnerable and the vaccine is on the way. When it comes my turn, I'll be getting the shot like everyone else."

Perdue mentioned Donald Trump's name once, giving the president credit for ushering in the vaccine process. Trump has continued to rail against the results of the election and called Gov. Brian Kemp a "fool" and a "clown" in a tweet Sunday night.

Trump also warned that if Kemp didn't step in and overturn the election results, which Kemp cannot legally do, Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler could be in big trouble. Kemp later pushed back on the comments, calling them "ridiculous."

Loeffler is running against the Rev. Raphael Warnock in a runoff for the state's other Senate seat. If Republicans win, they will retain partisan control of the chamber.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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