Georgia Runoffs Explainer
How do you feel about the GA runoff?
by The 2020 Causes Voter Center | 1.4.21
Although it’s been over a month since Election Day, control of the U.S. Senate remains undetermined. A pair of high-profile, high-stakes races in Georgia are set to determine control of the upper chamber.
Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue faces off against Democrat Jon Ossoff. And Republican appointee Sen. Kelly Loeffler battles Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Here's all the As to your Georgia Runoff Qs
Why the runoffs?
- Under Georgia law, if no candidate reaches 50% in an election, a runoff is triggered. None of the above candidates cleared the 50% threshold needed for an outright victory on Election Day.
Meet the candidates
Perdue (R) vs. Ossoff (D)
- Sen. David Perdue is a wealthy 70-year-old businessman. He’s been Georgia’s senior senator since 2015. Prior to his Senate career, he served as CEO of Dollar General and Reebok, and also held senior management positions at Haggar Clothing and Sara Lee.
- Jon Ossoff, 33, is the CEO of a media company that produces documentaries on corruption and war crimes in foreign countries. Three years ago, Ossoff was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate in a historically expensive special election for Georgia’s 6th District House seat, which was vacated by Tom Price when he joined the Trump administration as Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary.
Loeffler (R) vs. Warnock (D)
- Sen. Kelly Loeffler, 49, is a multimillionaire, former CEO of Bakkt (a subsidiary of the Intercontinental Exchange), and co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA team. She was appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to fill former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat when he retired in December 2019 due to health concerns.
- Rev. Raphael Warnock, 51, has served as senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church — where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached — since 2005.
What’s at stake?
- The U.S. Senate.
- Republicans have held both of Georgia’s Senate seats since 2005, after former Sen. Johnny Isakson won the seat formerly held by Democratic Sen. Zell Miller after Miller retired.
- However, these races have broader implications outside Georgia, as they will determine which party controls the Senate. Republicans, who currently hold 50 seats, need one more seat to secure the majority. But if Ossoff defeats Perdue, and Warnock defeats Loeffler, the Senate would be evenly split 50-50, making Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking majority vote.
- An interesting aside: this is the first time that runoff elections for two Senate seats in the same state could dictate political control of the Senate.
What are the key issues?
- Both the Republican and Democratic candidates are campaigning as duos, holding joint events and framing their stump speeches around what they could accomplish (or stop) in Washington together.
- At a rally in Cumming, Georgia, Sen. Perdue made this strategy clear by stating:
“I win, she wins; she wins, I win. It’s as simple as this. Kelly and I are asking you to stand with us!”
- The Republican team of Perdue and Loeffler contend that a Republican-held Senate is the only thing that can constrain the ambitions of a Biden administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). At the Cumming rally, Loeffler said:
“Make no mistake: We are the firewall — not just for the U.S. Senate, but the future of our country.”
- In his race, Ossoff is aggressively attacking Perdue on the issue of his stock portfolio. Perdue often traded - and made money - from companies that benefited from legislation he worked on. And in January, senators were briefed - privately - about the coronavirus.
- Soon afterwards, Loeffler made a series of stock trades based on this insider information. While Perdue did not attend the briefing, he bought stock in a cache of businesses that stood to benefit from a mass pandemic, including Pfizer.
- On the Democratic side, Ossoff and Warnock are seeking to portray Loeffler and Perdue as out of touch, particularly on the issue of enacting a new round of COVID-19 relief. In the final weeks of the election, the Democratic duo are making stimulus checks a central component of their closing arguments.
What national-level political figures have weighed in?
- Given the high stakes in the Georgia race, it is unsurprising that national-level party leaders on both sides have gotten involved.
- On the Republican side, President Donald Trump held his first post-election rally in Valdosta, Georgia, on December 5 to boost Perdue and Loeffler. Vice President Mike Pence has also made multiple visits to the state, and other administration officials are expected to do the same before January 5. Additionally, President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has launched a super PAC to ensure that Republicans turn out for the runoff.
- Across the aisle, former president Barack Obama held a virtual event for Ossoff and Warnock the day before President Trump’s rally. President-elect Biden is also investing significant time and political capital into boosting Ossoff’s and Warnock’s changes, as he sees a Democratic Senate as key to his agenda once in office.
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