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Election After The Election: One senate, two seats, four candidates

Currently, the Republicans have 50 seats in the US Senate, while the Democrats have 46: the two independent Senators tend to vote with the Democrats on most issues. One of the two seats is all the GOP needs to retain control of the Senate 

January 04, 2021 / 08:40 AM IST
Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

On November 3, election night, it’s hard to pinpoint any one state as Ground Zero for the United States presidential elections, because several states were cliff-hangers. I was in the political hotbed state of Georgia on November 6. The next day Georgia, along with Pennsylvania, flipped blue, and handed Democratic candidate Joe Biden 16 and 20 electoral votes respectfully. With this the septuagenarian challenger crossed the 270 landmark.

The last time Georgia went Blue was during Arkansas native Bill Clinton’s maiden run in 1992. Ninety-six-year-old former US President Jimmy Carter would have hardly fathomed being around long enough to see his home state as the lone blue oasis in a red conservative deep south desert.

I quipped to friends that since I brought liberal luck to Georgia, my purpose in the state now shifts to teaching incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue, who deliberately mangled Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ first name in a derogatory manner, how he should pronounce my rather complex last name.

Georgia is locked in a Senate run-off race after neither of the four candidates acquired the mandatory 50 percent majority to win the election. Seventy-one-year-old Perdue is facing a much younger opponent in Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff, who at 33 isn’t old enough to run for US President. Meanwhile, in the special election, GOP appointee Kelly Loeffler is defending her seat against a Democrat pastor, Rev Raphael Warnock.

Currently, the GOP has 50 seats in the Senate, while the Democrats have 46, the two independent Senators, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, tend to vote with the Democrats on most issues. One of the two seats is all the GOP needs to retain control of the Senate. If Ossoff and Warnock were to win their runoff races on January 5, then we are looking at a 50-50 split (given King and Sanders are safe bets on most liberal issues).

Close

Any split vote in the Senate, would be broken by the Vice President — Harris in this case. This would be disastrous for the conservatives, given that they have lost the White House and failed to regain the House of Representatives.

Brandon Duke, a Georgia native and lifelong Peach State resident, and co-host of the In Medias Res podcast says “I would be very surprised if the Democrats picked up both Senate seats. I don't think Democrats won Georgia so much as Trump lost it….it's hard to say if Georgia is firmly "blue" or just barely "blue," politically.”

When it comes to both candidates, Duke adds that “Perdue and Loeffler represent the Trump agenda to many people. If you're happy with that, you're gonna most likely vote for them. If you're not, Ossoff and Warnock represent change. I don't think it's about the candidates themselves at this point so much as it is the national picture. If you want to give President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris a chance to get anything done, you've got to hope that Ossoff and Warnock can both win. Anything short of that risks more gridlock for the foreseeable future.”

If Georgia turning Blue in the general elections was hard enough, the southern state has not sent a Democrat to the Senate in two decades; and presently no Democrats have held state-wide office since 2006. Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 gubernatorial race, has been credited for building a robust liberal progressive infrastructure.

The juxtaposition in the 2018 race for Governor was evident with Abrams, an African American liberal progressive woman, running against current Governor Brian Kemp, a White male, deeply conservative on issues of guns, abortion, faith and previously avowed Trump backer.

Warnock and Ossoff, are both political novices on the national scene. Warnock brings with him church work, activist work and a non-profit background, and should he win, he will be the state’s first African American Senator.

Ossoff has a very nebulous mix of being an investigative journalist for a small documentary company, interning for late Congressman and Civil Rights activist John Lewis, and working as a national security aide on the hill for Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson.

In Georgia right now, it’s a slew of advertisements bombarded across television, Internet pop-ups and YouTube. Media reports state that ad spending for the run-off is up to nearly $540 million.

Ossoff has leveraged his ‘youth charisma’ in ads worth over $100 million, showing how he is an agent of change; while Warnock has doled out $90 million, both outspending their opponents $53.7 million by Loeffler and $45.7 million by Perdue. Former President Barack Obama and President-Elect Biden too have wasted no time in helping to drum up support for both Ossoff and Warnock.

Early voting has seen over 2 million Georgians out of a potential 5 million eligible voters, having cast their ballot. Forty-nine of the states now turn to Georgia, whose results will play a role in Biden’s Cabinet appointments and likely be the difference if he is able to pass legislation, or get stuck in Washingtonian gridlock.
Akshobh Giridharadas is a Washington DC-based former journalist. Views are personal.
first published: Jan 4, 2021 08:40 am

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