George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III (born December 20, 1946) is an American veterinarian, businessman, and politician currently serving as the 31st United States Secretary of Agriculture since 2017. He previously served as the 81st Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. He was the first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.
Perdue currently also serves on the Governors' Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Perdue is the second Secretary of Agriculture from the Deep South; the first was Mike Espy of Mississippi, who served under President Bill Clinton from January 1993 to December 1994.
On January 18, 2017, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Perdue to be Secretary of Agriculture. His nomination was transmitted to the U.S. Senate on March 9, 2017. His nomination was approved by the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on March 30, by a 19–1 voice vote and by the entire Senate in a vote of 87–11 on April 24.
|31st United States Secretary of Agriculture|
Assumed office |
April 25, 2017
|Preceded by||Tom Vilsack|
|81st Governor of Georgia|
January 13, 2003 – January 10, 2011
|Preceded by||Roy Barnes|
|Succeeded by||Nathan Deal|
|Member of the Georgia Senate|
from the 18th district
January 9, 1991 – January 9, 2002
|Preceded by||Ed Barker|
|Succeeded by||Ross Tolleson|
George Ervin Perdue III|
December 20, 1946
Perry, Georgia, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (1998–present)|
|Democratic (before 1998)|
|Relatives||David Perdue (cousin)|
|Education||University of Georgia (BS, DVM)|
|Service/branch||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1971–1974|
Perdue was born in Perry, Georgia, the son of Ophie Viola (Holt), a teacher, and George Ervin Perdue Jr., a farmer. He grew up and still lives in Bonaire, an unincorporated area between Perry and Warner Robins. Born George Ervin Perdue III, Perdue has been known as Sonny since childhood and prefers to be called by that name; he was sworn in and signs official documents as "Sonny Perdue". Perdue is the first cousin of U.S. Senator David Perdue.
In 1971, Perdue earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and worked as a veterinarian before becoming a small business owner, eventually starting three small businesses.
After serving as a member of the Houston County Planning & Zoning Commission in the 1980s, Perdue ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly. He defeated Republican candidate Ned Sanders in 1990 and succeeded Democratic incumbent Ed Barker as the senator representing the 18th district.
Perdue was elected as a Democrat in 1991, 1994, and 1996. He served as his party's leader in the Senate from 1994 to 1997 and as president pro tempore. After his first year in office Senator Perdue wrote then Lt. Governor Pierre Howard asking for more responsibilities, and Howard obliged. He shortly after became a committee chairman, then climbed the leadership ladder to majority leader, then Senate Pro-Tempore. Many credit Pierre Howard for helping Perdue build the early foundation of what would become his future political career.
His committee assignments included Ethics, Finance & Public Utilities, Health & Human Services, Reapportionment and Economic Development, Tourism & Cultural Affairs.
In December 2001, Perdue resigned as state senator and devoted himself entirely to running for the office of Governor of Georgia. He won the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial election, defeating Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes 51% to 46%, with Libertarian candidate Garrett Michael Hayes taking 2% of the vote. He became the first Republican governor of Georgia in over 130 years since Benjamin F. Conley.
In 2006, Perdue was re-elected to a second term in the 2006 Georgia gubernatorial election, winning nearly 58% of the vote. His Democratic opponent was Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor. Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes was also on the ballot.
Perdue advocated reforms designed to cut waste in government, most notably the sale of surplus vehicles and real estate. Prior to Perdue's becoming governor, no state agency had even compiled an inventory of what assets the state owned.
In January 2003, Perdue signed an executive order prohibiting himself and all other state employees from receiving any gift worth more than $25. During his governorship, Perdue collected at least $25,000 in gifts, including sporting event tickets and airplane flights.
Late in the evening of March 29, 2005, the penultimate day of the legislative session, Representative Larry O'Neal, who also worked part-time as Perdue’s personal lawyer, introduced legislation making capital gains tax owed on Georgia land sales deferrable if the income goes to purchase out-of-state land, also, unusually, making the tax break retroactive. Perdue signed the legislation into law on April 12, 2005, three days before tax day. Perdue then used the new law on his 2004 tax return to defer $100,000 in taxable gains from the sale of land.
In 2007, Perdue convinced a skeptical legislature to approve a $19 million fishing tourism program he called Go Fish Georgia. Perdue then decided that the Go Fish Education Center would be built down the road from his home.
In education, Perdue promoted the return of most decision-making to the local level. After Perdue took office, in 2003 and 2004, Georgia moved up from last place in the country in SAT scores. Although it returned to last place in 2005, Georgia rose to 49th place in 2006 in the combined math and reading mean score, including the writing portion added to the test that year. In 2007, Georgia moved up to 46th place. In 2008, Georgia moved up again, to 45th place. Perdue also created additional opportunities for charter schools and private schools.
After Democratic Governor Roy Barnes replaced the 1956 state flag, which was adopted by Georgia to protest integration, because it featured a battle flag emblem of the Confederacy, Perdue promised in his 2002 election campaign that he would let the state's citizens vote to determine the state flag of Georgia. The choices given to Georgian voters were a modified version of the First National Flag of the Confederate States of America with the Georgia State Seal prominently displayed inside a circle of 13 stars, or the version of the flag created in 2001 by the Roy Barnes administration. The design of the 2001 Georgian flag was widely unpopular, being derisively named the "Barnes flag", and the North American Vexillological Association deemed it the ugliest U.S. state flag. Perdue disappointed some Georgians by not including the 1956 flag as a choice on the ballot despite his campaign promises to do so. However, Perdue was faced with a Democratic House that would not consider having the 1956 flag on the referendum due to its Confederate origins, and he needed support for a tobacco tax he wanted to pass to raise revenue. Georgia voters chose the flag resembling the Confederate flag.
In 2004, Perdue sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block environmental regulations on reformulated gasoline. In a 2014 editorial published by National Review, Perdue criticized attempts by "some on the left or in the mainstream media" to connect climate change to weather events. Perdue wrote that "liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality."
In 2006, Perdue signed a law that gave Georgia "some of the nation's toughest measures against illegal immigrants".
On November 13, 2007, while Georgia suffered from one of the worst droughts in several decades, Perdue led a group of several hundred people in a prayer on the steps of the state Capitol. Perdue addressed the crowd, saying "We’ve come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm" and "God, we need you; we need rain".
According to a March 5, 2008, proclamation by Perdue, "Among those who served the Confederacy were many African-Americans, both free and slave, who saw action in the Confederate armed forces in many combat roles. According to the Georgia government's website on Confederate History Month, they also participated in the manufacture of products for the war effort, built naval ships, and provided military assistance and relief efforts..." The proclamation was criticized by historians for its historical inaccuracies, although there were in fact African-Americans who served the Confederacy, both voluntarily and compulsory.
In 2008, Perdue worked with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to implement Ready Georgia, a campaign to increase disaster preparedness throughout the state. The next year, Georgia was affected by the 2009 Southeastern United States floods, which were the most severe floods in Georgia's recorded history. The floods resulted in Perdue declaring a state of emergency in 17 counties.
Beginning in 2007, Governor Perdue began to pursue the goal of making Georgia the "bass-fishing tourism mecca". The administration began acquiring bond money for the Go Fish Education Center near his home in Perry,GA. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, payments on the Go Fish bonds, approved by Perdue and the General Assembly in 2007, runs through December 2027 with most payments $1 million a year in bond money. 
Upon the end of Perdue's term as Governor, many in the Georgia General Assembly condemned the project and Perdue after an advisory council (appointed by Perdue) began to funnel additional bond money to the project located in his home county. "To me it was a boondoggle because of the amount of money they were spending and the location," said Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "You have got to have stuff where there is a lot of traffic. It's a little off the beaten path."
The project overall has been scrutinized as a waste of taxpayer money due to mismanagement of bond money and extremely low visitors. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources figures show 21,101 people visited the Perry facility in fiscal 2015, which ended June 30. It generated $102,077 in revenue, or about 11 cents for every dollar it cost to run the center in years past.
During his governorship, the Georgia State Ethics Commission received thirteen complaints against Perdue. The State Ethics Commission ruled against Perdue twice, finding that Perdue had taken improper campaign contributions from donors including SunTrust Banks, and that he had improperly used one of his family business's airplanes on campaign, for which the Commission, unusually, fined the sitting governor.
In mid-2003, Perdue purchased 101 acres (0.41 km2) of land next to his Houston County, Georgia home. The land was adjacent to the 20,000-acre Oaky Woods preserve being sold by Weyerhaeuser. The land was eventually sold to developers; however, the state was evaluating bidding on the property and keeping it as a reserve. After the state dropped out of the bidding and the land was sold to developers, the value of Perdue's property more than doubled. Perdue failed to disclose his ownership of the property in required financial disclosure forms.
Perdue was constitutionally ineligible to seek a third consecutive term as governor in the 2010 Georgia gubernatorial election. In 2011, he founded Perdue Partners, which facilitates the export of U.S. goods and services.
During meetings with Georgia state port officials, then-Governor Perdue discussed his family business's use of a terminal, then started a new export company in Savannah soon after leaving office.
On January 18, 2017, incoming President Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Perdue to be United States Secretary of Agriculture. The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry overwhelmingly approved his nomination on March 30, with a 19–1 vote. The sole vote against him came from Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Senator David Perdue (R-GA) abstained, as he is the nominee's first cousin. He was confirmed by the Senate on April 24, and sworn in by Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.
During his tenure as Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue has focused on helping new farmers get started in agriculture. In August 2017, he announced a mentoring program for new farmers. Others issues addressed by Perdue include assisting rural communities, helping farmers operate with less regulation, increasing exports, passing the 2018 Farm Bill, and addressing crop damage caused by dicamba.
Perdue and his wife, Mary (née Ruff), were married in 1972 after dating for four years. They have four children (Leigh, Lara, Jim, and Dan), fourteen grandchildren (six boys and eight girls), and have also been foster parents for many children. Perdue lives in Bonaire, Georgia.
In 2006, Perdue's financial disclosure forms revealed that he had a net worth of approximately $6 million and received compensation of $700,000 that year.
|Democratic||Sonny Perdue (Incumbent)||28,920||100|
|Republican||Sonny Perdue (Incumbent)||24,543||100|
|Republican||Sonny Perdue (Incumbent)||30,681||69.2|
|Democratic||Roy Barnes (Incumbent)||937,062||46.3|
|Libertarian||Garrett Michael Hayes||47,122||2.3|
|Republican gain from Democratic||Swing|
|Republican||Sonny Perdue (incumbent)||1,229,724||57.9||+6.5|
|Libertarian||Garrett Michael Hayes||81,412||3.8||+1.5|
|Georgia State Senate|
| Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 18th district
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia
| Chair of the Republican Governors Association
| Governor of Georgia
| United States Secretary of Agriculture
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Secretary of the Interior
| Order of Precedence of the United States
Secretary of Agriculture
as Secretary of Commerce
|Current U.S. presidential line of succession|
as Secretary of the Interior
| 9th in line
Secretary of Agriculture
as Secretary of Commerce