The Great Decider: Georgia Runoff Senate Races

Senate Control Hangs in the Balance – January 5!


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hayden Kim, Opinion's Editor

Following close victories for the Democratic party in the Presidential and congressional election results in November, control of the Senate, the final decider of whether the Democrats can sweep both legislative branches, is up to the January 5 Georgia Runoff elections.

If the Democrats are able to win both seats in Georgia, they can win a tiebreaker majority with the Senate being split up 50 blue – 50 red. However, if the Republicans win just one of those seats, they can control the Senate and make President-Elect Joe Biden’s job significantly harder by blocking his proposed legislation. As a result, both parties are jockeying for influence and votes in a state that will decide whether Biden can push legislation through or whether Republicans will vehemently obstruct and oppose that legislation. 

What exactly is a runoff election? In short, the runoff election rule was put in place by the State of Georgia to combat the Black voting bloc in the state following a Supreme Court ruling in 1964 that found that Georgia’s previous election system violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The rule basically means that a candidate needs at least 50% of the vote in order to win. If a candidate fails to win in the general election, another election will be held on a later date until a winner is announced. Both Georgia seats are up for grabs for two different reasons. In the Ossoff vs. Perdue race, it is a regular senate election that occurs every 6 years. However, the Warnock vs. Loeffler race, is a “special election” due to the resignation of Johnny Isakson in 2019 and Loeffler was named as an interim replacement until the next election cycle.  During the runoff on January 5th,  each party can only have one candidate running which leaves us in the current situation.

The Republican party continues to rely on the same strategy used in the primaries with the continued discrediting of the election and wild and borderline libel claims against the candidates. For example, Republican media personalities, Diamond and Silk, falsely claimed on Facebook that ineligible voters in Georgia were receiving ballots and right-wing commentator Mark Levin falsely claimed in another Facebook post that Reverend Ralphael Warnock once welcomed Fidel Castro into his church. These blatantly false claims only stand to hurt the Republican party’s reputation with moderate to left-leaning voters and exemplify their desperation to win at all costs. The Democratic party is taking a significantly less aggressive approach, as they did in the primaries, and trying to play the numbers.

However, trying to play “the numbers” or lack thereof, may be a big misstep by the Democratic party. The same phenomenon in 2016 in the polls happened again this year. Many polls projected then former Vice President Joe Biden to sweep Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, and Wisconsin by high single-digit margins. In actuality, Joe Biden won Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes and won Wisconsin by fewer than 21,000 votes. As a result, many of the prominent pollsters have either polled in small sample sizes or completely abstained from polling altogether. The very few polls that have surfaced shows a very close battle so the Democrats cannot play not to lose, but instead must play to win with more aggressive campaigning.

The two races, Kelly Loeffler (R) vs. Reverend Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (R) vs. David Perdue (D), includes very intriguing candidates on both sides. Rev. Warnock, a senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta GA since 2005. Kelly Loeffler, the incumbent senator who replaced Johnny Isakson after he resigned due to health reasons was previously the CEO of Bakkt, a subsidiary of her husband’s company, Intercontinental Exchange. In the other race, Jon Ossoff, a documentary film producer and investigative journalist, faces incumbent David Perdue, Former vice president of Reebok and CEO of Dollar General. Both these races are very close with polls showing Warnock edging out Loeffler by 1.8% and Ossoff edging out Perdue by slightly less than 1%. However, if the primaries demonstrate anything, it is that these already competitive battles are much closer in favor of the Republicans than expected. This race is way too close to predict. However, if I were to give a shot in the dark, I would give a win to Rev. Raphael Warnock and David Perdue which would put the Republicans in the lead in the Senate. The runoff election will be held on January 5th, 2020.