Republican Senate majority hangs in the balance as second Georgia race heads to runoff

Both Georgia Senate runoffs slated for 5 January 2021

Griffin Connolly
Washington
Saturday 07 November 2020 03:54
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Democrat Jon Ossoff calls for support in his senate runoff race in Georgia

The Georgia Senate race between Senator David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is heading to a runoff after neither candidate earned 50 per cent of the vote in this week’s general election, The Associated Press has projected.

The outcome of the Perdue-Ossoff matchup as well as the Peach State’s other runoff Senate election between Democrat Raphael Warnock and GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler appears likely to decide whether Republicans keep control of the Senate or whether they must hand it off to the Democrats.

If Joe Biden wins the presidency, which appeared imminently likely by Friday, Democrats would need both Georgia seats to pull even with Republicans in the Senate with 50 members apiece. Per the US Constitution, a Vice President Kamala Harris would decisive votes in the chamber whenever there is a 50-50 tie.

Both Georgia Senate runoffs and other smaller local runoffs are slated for 5 January.

What is a runoff election and why is it important?

With nearly all of the estimated vote counted by Friday evening, Mr Perdue was leading Mr Ossoff by roughly 95,000 votes, or 49.8-47.9 per cent.

The Libertarian candidate, Shane Hazel, had a 2.3 per cent share, potentially spoiling Mr Perdue’s outright victory.

Throughout the campaign, Mr Ossoff has assailed Mr Perdue, a former corporate executive seeking his second Senate term, as “corrupt” and accused him of prioritising his loyalty to Donald Trump over serving the interests of actual Georgia voters.

Mr Perdue and his GOP allies in the state have attacked Mr Perdue as a do-nothing candidate from a wealthy family who would take Georgia down the path of “socialism” if he becomes its senator.

The runoff between Mr Warnock and Ms Loeffler was called on Tuesday when it was clear no candidate in that special election would meet the majority threshold to win the general election.

Ms Loeffler — who was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp earlier this year to replace Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired amid ongoing health problems — had garnered 26 per cent of the vote share by Friday. Mr Warnock had 32.9 per cent. Both candidates were running in a crowded pool of Democratic and GOP hopefuls since there was no primary election for the special election. Ms Loeffler’s biggest challenge was from Congressman Doug Collins, the former top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, who earned roughly 20 per cent of the vote share.

After a bitter primary in which Mr Collins accused Ms Loeffler of corruption and dragged her hard to the right, the congressman threw his support behind Ms Loeffler’s campaign, saying Mr Warnock would be a “disaster for Georgia and America.”

Nearly a half-dozen vulnerable GOP incumbents fended off strong and well-funded Democratic challenges on Election Night.

Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and John Cornyn of Texas have each held onto their respective seats. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis has been leading his Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham, for days by less than 2 percentage points as the state continues to process thousands of mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day but have continued arriving.

The current Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, won re-election by nearly 20 percentage points and has expressed confidence he will keep the gavel come January.

Before the election he pegged the odds at “50-50.”

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