What You Need to Know About the Georgia Senate Runoff Elections

Ryan Bort
·4 min read

Democratic Senate candidates may have underperformed in last week’s elections, but Republicans haven’t secured control of the chamber just yet.

As it stands now, Republicans hold a 53-47-seat majority in the Senate. In the 2020 races that have already been called, Democrats netted a gain of one seat, which brings the balance of power to 52-48. But there are two outstanding races in Georgia scheduled for runoffs on January 5th, and if Democrats can win both of them the Senate will be split 50/50. If this were to happen, the vice president would cast the deciding vote on anything that runs through the chamber. As of January 20th, 2021, the vice president will be Kamala Harris. (Senate races in Alaska and North Carolina are also still outstanding, although both are expected to break in favor of the GOP.)

Georgia’s two Senate races are headed for runoffs because the state requires candidates to received at least 50 percent of the vote to win an election outright. This didn’t happen in either race, so here we are.

Here’s where things stand headed into what is sure to be a furious — and expensive — two months of campaigning.

Jon Ossoff Vs. David Perdue

How Georgia voted on November 3rd: As of Monday, Perdue brought in 49.7 percent of the vote, compared to 47.9 for Ossoff.

What it means: Ossoff had the momentum, but Perdue had the power of incumbency, the power of being a Republican in Georgia, and the power of a family that includes cousin Sonny Perdue, Georgia’s governor from 2003-2011 and current Secretary of Agriculture under President Trump.

To win in January, the 33-year-old Ossoff is going to have to leverage the enthusiasm that led the state to turn blue in a presidential election for the first time since 1992 (we think), while hoping Perdue’s support was buoyed by Trump-loving Georgians who will stay home in January.

What the campaigns are saying: Ossoff has already challenged Perdue to participate in three debates before the runoff. This isn’t surprising considering his evisceration of Perdue’s health care failings during a debate in late October. The issue figures to be a big part of Ossoff’s push toward January. “When a runoff is called and held in January, Georgians are going to send Jon to the Senate to defend their health care and put the interests of working families and small businesses ahead of corporate lobbyists,” campaign manager Ellen Foster wrote in a statement.

The Perdue camp is just as confident. “If overtime is required when all of the votes have been counted, we’re ready, and we will win,” campaign manager Ben Fry wrote in a statement.

Rafael Warnock Vs. Kelly Loeffler

How Georgia voted on November 3rd: As of Monday, Warnock brought in 32.9 percent of the vote, compared to 25.9 for Loeffler (Republican Rep. Doug Collins finished third with 20 percent).

What it means: Loeffler was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp to succeed Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired at the end of 2019. This year’s special election was held to determine who will serve the remaining two yers of Isakson’s term. Though Warnock, a pastor in Atlanta, is up on Loeffler by 7 points, he’s going to have a hard time winning now that the ballot does not feature Collins, whose support figures to funnel in Loeffler’s direction.

What the campaigns are saying: Warnock was prepared for a runoff before the results were even final last week. On Wednesday, his campaign released an ad warning Georgians that Loeffler is going to come after him between now and January. Like Ossoff, Warnock is hitting his Republican opponent for moving to strip Georgians of their health care in the middle of a pandemic.

Loeffler has been splitting her time between calling attention to the importance of the runoff and indulging Trump’s goose chase to prove the election was fraudulent. So is Perdue, for that matter. On Monday, they released a joint statement calling on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to resign, citing “mismanagement and lack of transparency.” They did not cite any specific evidence of wrongdoing.

“As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate,” Raffensperger said in response. “I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”

How can Georgians vote in the runoffs?

Both runoff elections will take place on Tuesday, January 5th. Georgians must be registered to vote by December 7th in order to vote in the runoffs. The state will hold three weeks of early voting. Absentee voting is also permitted, and a ballot can be requested by clicking here.

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