Georgia is set to become the focus of attention in early January when the state hosts two runoff elections for the U.S. Senate that will determine which party will be in control.
Republican Senator David Perdue almost won his re-election campaign outright, getting 49.8 percent of the total vote. That was just short of the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid a runoff. He will face Democrat Jon Ossoff in one of the runoffs on January 5, 2021.
The other Senate election was called to fill out the unexpired term of GOP Senator Johnny Isaacson, who resigned in 2019 because of health issues. Governor Brian Kemp replaced him by naming Kelly Loeffler to the seat. Her main opponent was Democrat Raphael Warnock, an African American pastor from Atlanta. Both candidates will also face off on January 5.
Warnock finished ahead of Loeffler by nearly 400,000 votes on Tuesday, but runoff elections — no matter how much interest is generated in them — usually fail to match the general election in enthusiasm or turnout. It will be an entirely different race with the conservative Loeffler going up against the far-left Warnock.
In Georgia’s special election runoff, Loeffler will have to revisit controversies that have plagued her first year in office.
She wasn’t Trump’s first choice to fill the seat — he had urged the appointment of GOP Rep. Doug Collins instead. And Loeffler, a business executive who is married to the CEO of the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, was accused of dumping $20 million in stocks after a closed-door Senate briefing on the coronavirus in January. A review by federal regulators found no wrongdoing.
She has also held a stake in the WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream, and previously headed up a subsidiary under NYSE owner, Intercontinental Exchange. She also faced controversy from WNBA players concerned about her remarks regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.
Collins knew there was concern among Republicans that the bad blood between him and Loeffler would lead to a Democratic win, but he dispelled those concerns in his gracious concession.
I just called @kloeffler and congratulated her on making the runoff. She has my support and endorsement. I look forward to all Republicans coming together. Raphael Warnock would be a disaster for Georgia and America.
— Doug Collins (@CollinsforGA) November 4, 2020
Loeffler has a lot of ground to make up, but has a decent shot now that she’s running with a united party. Combined, Loeffler and Collins’ votes swamped Warnock by nearly 600,000.
Perdue’s race will be against the Democrats’ latest “next JFK.” Any Democratic candidate under the age of 50 with reasonably good looks is immediately anointed “the next JFK” because, well, Camelot and all that. Jon Ossoff is an empty suit but he will have an unlimited bankroll and the best image-makers in the business on his side. Warnock is pastor of the Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King once thundered his sermons to the faithful. Fortunately, he reminds no one of MLK.
Perdue and Loeffler will also be well-financed. In fact, all four candidates can expect to raise upwards of $50 million before it’s all said and done. The key will be turnout and after an exhausting, lengthy national election, how many will simply tune out the political noise and ignore the runoff elections?
Both elections should be close, but the party that loses a national election is generally hungry for revenge. And with the Senate on the line, expect Republicans in Georgia to “vote as if their lives depended on it.” Republicans need just one of the two races to maintain their majority.