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Georgia Runoff Elections

By: Nikita Vandrangi — Political Editor

November 3rd served as a monumental day for Georgians as they underwent two senate elections, both of which are going to runoff elections to be held on January 5, 2021. Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler is facing off with Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock in a special election, and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is challenging Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue in a general election. 

Georgia is among one of the few states in the country that holds runoff elections in both its primary and general elections. A runoff election is the second round of elections held when none of the candidates in the first round meet the minimum victory requirements, in this case, 50% of the vote. In such a case, the top two candidates are sent to an automatic runoff election. Rev. Warnock received 32.% of the vote, while Sen. Loeffler received 25.9%, and Sen. Perdue received 49.7% and Ossoff received 47.9% of the vote. Only nine other states in the country hold runoffs for primary elections, and only Georgia and Louisiana hold runoffs for their general elections. 

The majority of states, including Massachusetts, conduct elections where the winner is only required to receive a “plurality” of the vote, also known as the “winner take all” system. The Massachusetts “Yes on 2” ballot initiative sought to implement ranked-choice voting, a system designed to ensure the winner gets a majority, not a plurality, of the vote. However, this did not pass.  

With the presidential election settled, for the most part, all eyes are on Georgia this coming January. The runoff election could determine which party holds the Senate for the coming years. Currently, the 116th Congress stands with a 53-47 Republican majority. The incoming 117th Congress is at 50-48 Republican majority in the Senate. If the runoffs result in a Republican victory on both, or even just one, front the GOP will hold their majority. 

Democrats are hoping for a double win, bringing the Senate to a 50-50 tie, in which case Democratic Vice President-elect would cast the tie-breaking vote. Democrats are placing their hopes on these two elections, after suffering a substantial loss on election night, only flipping two seats in Colorado and Arizona, for a net gain of one seat in the Senate. Republicans are simply hoping to hold onto their majority. 

The two Democratic candidates, Warnock and Ossoff, are joined by Stacey Abrams in their organizing efforts. Abrams is a former Georgia State Representative, Georgia House Minority Leader, and 2018 Democratic Gubernatorial candidate. She is largely credited with President-elect Biden’s success in Georgia due to her voter registration efforts through the Fair Fight organization. 

The Republican Senators, Loeffler and Perdue, are riding on President Trump’s legal efforts in the hopes to drive Republican voters to the polls by expressing frustration in the loss and supporting the claims of voter fraud. 

President Trump has not explicitly taken action to draw in Georgia voters for this specific race, but it is largely speculated that the president’s efforts have a significant impact on the runoffs for the GOP. Senators Perdue and Loeffler called on the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, to resign on November 9 in a joint statement, citing that Secretary Raffensperger “failed to deliver honest and transparent elections.” 

Senator Kelly Loeffler was appointed to her seat by Governor Brian Kemp early this year after Senator Johnny Isakson retired due to health concerns. She serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the HELP Committee. Previously, Sen. Loeffler served as the spokeswoman and executive for Intercontinental Exchange, commodities and financial exchange company founded by her husband, Jeffrey C. Sprecher. 

Worth somewhere between $800 million and $1 billion, they are the richest couple on Capitol Hill. Sen. Loeffler also became co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream. The senator calls herself one of the most conservative senators in American, even airing an ad stating she was “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” Sen. Loeffler is a staunch supporter of President Trump, advocating for his economic agenda, the border wall, and his healthcare plan to lower prescription drug prices. Additionally, Sen. Loeffler is a supporter of the second amendment and is pro-life.

Reverend Raphael Warnock is a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, previously where Martin Luther King Jr. preached. Rev. Warnock grew up in a housing project in Savannah, GA with his eleven brothers and sisters, and became the fifth senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist in 2005. He was arrested in 2014 for protesting Republican refusal to expand Medicaid under President Obama at the state’s capital and later in 2017 for protesting the proposed budget cuts to social services. 

Rev. Warnock supports women’s reproductive rights and gay marriage and is a climate justice advocate. His plans include expanding Medicaid in Georgia under the Affordable Care Act, responsibly funding police departments, ending mass incarcerations and private prisons. Rev. Warnock is also an advocate for fair voting rights, citing the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. 

Senator David Perdue is Georgia’s senior senator, coming into the role in early 2015. Sen. Perdue is the former chief executive of Reebok and Dollar General, and he served on the board of director of the data marketing firm, Cardlytics, right before his first campaign for the senate. As a senator, he sits on the Senate Banking Committee and is Chairman of the Armed Services Committee on Seapower. Sen. Perdue is considered one of the wealthiest members of the Senate with a net worth of around $15.8 million. Sen. Perdue is infamous for the circulating video of mispronouncing now Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ name, with which his opponent, Jon Ossoff, raised about $2 million in two days. He is also subject to the viral debate moment in which Ossoff attacked him for “downplaying the coronavirus pandemic” while “buying stocks in health care companies and selling shares in travel-related industries.” 

Sen. Perdue pulled out of their third and final debate before the election. Early in the pandemic, the senator encouraged following safety and health guidelines, including mask-wearing. He is a strong ally of President Trump’s and has praised the president’s response to the pandemic. Senator Perdue’s plans include cutting taxes for Georgians, an emphasis on law and order, working with President Trump to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, and lower prescription drug prices. Sen. Perdue is also a strong supporter of the second amendment and is pro-life. 

Jon Ossoff is an investigative journalist, serving as the CEO of Insight TWI, a media production company that investigates corruption, organized crime, and war crimes for international news organizations. Ossoff ran previously in the 2017 special congressional race to fill Representative Tom Price’s seat. He was famously endorsed by the late Congressman John Lewis and went to a runoff with opponent former Rep. Karen Handel but lost. 

Ossoff has been criticized by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for being too cautious in the center. His plans include an expansion of the Affordable care Act with a public insurance option, solving the environmental crisis, demilitarizing police forces, banning private prisons, and reforming the prison system. Ossoff also supports reproductive justice, universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and LBTQ equality. 

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