The presidential election is now over and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris prevailed. But the question of which party will control the U.S. Senate still hangs in the balance. It’s come down to two races in Georgia, a reliably Republican state that Stacey Abrams helped flip blue.
The two contests -- one between Democrat Jon Ossoff and incumbent Republican David Perdue, the other between Rev. Raphael Warnock and loyal Trumper Sen. Kelly Loeffler -- are headed for a Jan. 5 runoff which will determine if Democrats or Republicans have a Senate majority.
Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, secured 32.9 percent of the vote and now finds himself having to continue his campaign to defeat Loeffler, the incumbent GOP senator who faced off with Warnock and fellow Republican Rep. Doug Collins and won 25.9 percent. He has the momentum of Georgia voters behind him, but it is likely to be a tight secondary race. Here are five things everyone should know about the campaign.
There have been 10 African Americans to hold seats in the U.S. Senate, the most recent being Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. But if Warnock wins, he would become the 11th. He would also join Sen. Cory Booker and GOP Sen. Tim Scott in the Senate. Harris would, of course, still be present because as vice president, she would preside over the Senate and cast tie-breaking votes. In the House of Representatives, there are four African-Americans represeting Georgia out of 14 legislators.
The Senate election resulted in a 48-48 tie in seats. For Democrats to gain a majority, both Georgia races would have to swing their way. A Democratic majority would likely allow President-elect Biden to move his agenda forward while in office. This means many things, including expansion of the Affordable Care Act, his COVID-19 strategy, criminal justice reform, and economic policy would have much less resistance than it would if there was a Republican Senate majority, particularly with the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Loeffler’s opposition to the Black Lives Matter Movement falls in steep contrast to Warnock’s support of the movement against police brutality. In fact, demonstrations in Atlanta after the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks brought his campaign significant attention. He delivered the eulogy for his funeral and afterward, Atlanta became a focal point for the BLM movement. “What I’m most inspired by is the appropriate restlessness of the yell,” Warnock told Vox.com. “I think that they’re justified in their discontent.”
That’s not the only issue where the two stand on opposite sides. Warnock is an advocate of affordable health care, while Loeffler has supported politicians who wish to dismantle Obamacare. Warnock has called for police reforms, while Loeffler has attacked him on the “defund the police” slogan used by demonstrators. Warnock, who criticized Donald Trump on his stance toward white supremacist and far right grops has also singled out Loeffler for accepting the endorsement of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon-supporting Georgia congressional candidate who won her bid for the House.
Abrams tweeted Monday morning (Nov. 9), saying $6 million has already been raised toward a victory for Warnock and Ossoff. It’s part of the effort she’s led to bring support for Democratic candidates in Georgia. She is continuing her part of the campaign by drumming up support for Warnock and Ossoff and asking for further contributions for their campaigns. “We will have the investment and the resources that have never followed our runoffs in Georgia for Democrats,” she said during an appearance on CNN on Sunday (Nov. 8). “This is going to be the determining factor of whether we have access to health care and access to justice"
Kelly Loeffler, who co-owns the Atlanta Dream, has been vocally opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying it “doesn’t represent American values.” Some even called for her to sell her stake in the team. Players in the league, who roundly supported police reform efforts, responded by giving their endorsement to Warnock. This summer, they even began wearing t-shirts that read “Vote Warnock” in defiance. “We are @wnba players, but like the late, great John Lewis said, we are also ordinary people with extraordinary vision. @ReverendWarnock has spent his life fighting for the people and we need him in Washington,” said Dream forward Elizabeth Williams in a tweet.
Photo Credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
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