Who Are The Candidates In the Georgia Senate Runoff Races?

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In Georgia, the 2020 presidential race has been called in favor of President-elect Joe Biden, who is leading President Trump in the state by approximately 14,100 votes. Given this small Democratic margin victory, many people have begun to wonder if Democratic victories are possible in the state’s Senate runoff election on January 5.

In one of these Senate runoff races, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is running against Republican incumbent Senator David Perdue. Meanwhile, there is another runoff race between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Georgia’s other Republican senator Kelly Loeffler.

Who is Jon Ossoff?

Before Jon Ossoff ran a high-profile 2017 special campaign for Georgia’s 6th congressional district, he was an investigative journalist, documentary filmmaker, and national security staffer and aide to Democratic Representative Hank Johnson. The 2021 runoff won’t be his first Congress campaign: Ossoff ran against Karen Handel for Georgia’s 2017 special election for Georgia’s sixth congressional district.

Ossoff was endorsed by Stacey Abrams, who was then the Georgia House Democratic Leader, and received public support from U.S. Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His campaign raised more than $23 million from Georgians, and the majority of his contributors were small-dollar nationwide donors. Handel and national Republican groups criticized Ossoff for raising significant contributions from outside Georgia. Ultimately, Ossoff lost the election to Handel with 48.22 percent compared to Handel’s 51.78 percent.

On September 10, 2019, Ossoff formally announced his run in Georgia’s Democratic Senate primary election. On June 10, 2020, Ossoff won 50.5 percent of the Democratic primary vote. On October 28, during Georgia’s senatorial debate, Ossoff and current incumbent Republican David Perdue got into a heated exchange that went viral. In this exchange, Ossoff condemned Perdue for denying the severity of COVID-19 and running anti-Semitic ads against Ossoff. 

In the November 2020 general election, neither Ossoff nor Purdue received 50 percent of votes, resulting in the January 2021 runoff. Recently, Perdue declined an invitation to the final public debate against Ossoff ahead of this election. According to polls, Ossoff leads Purdue by approximately one percent.

Who is Raphael Warnock?

Warnock is the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, which was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s congregation. In 2011, Warnock became involved with activism. Three years later, he led a high-profile sit-in demonstration inside the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to stop opposing Medicaid expansion. From June 2017 to January 2020, Warnock chaired the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan voting rights organization.

On January 30, Warnock officially entered the 2020 special election – one of Georgia’s two 2020 U.S. Senate races – against incumbent Republican senator Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins, another Republican candidate. After Collins garnered approximately 20 percent of Georgia’s votes, compared to both Warnock’s 32.9 percent and Loeffler’s 25.9 percent, Collins conceded.

Loeffler, along with Perdue, was under scrutiny for “pandemic profiteering.” Both senators sold their stocks after a briefing in the weeks building up to the coronavirus pandemic, just before the COVID-19 virus caused a downturn in the markets. Both senators denied wrongdoing, saying their trades were made by independent advisers and were ultimately cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee. Earlier this year, Loeffler announced she and her husband would divest from their stock investments to put criticism to rest. 

Warnock has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders, Stacey Abrams, and former president Barack Obama. According to polls, Warnock is in a tight race with Loeffler. One poll has shown that Warnock is at 48 percent and Loeffler has a slight lead at 49 percent. This poll is within the margin of error of 2.6 percentage points. About 3 percent of voters said they remain undecided.

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