DemDaily: All Eyes on Georgia

November 16, 2020

Status of the Senate (Image: NYT)

Now almost two weeks after the November 3rd election, the balance of power in the US Senate is still undetermined.

With the call last week that incumbent Republicans held onto seats in Alaska and North Carolina, the post-election count in the US Senate is now down to 50 Republicans to 48 Democrats, with two remaining Senate seats in Georgia going to a run-off January 5th.

Democrats will need to win both Georgia seats to bring control of the US Senate to 50-50. When votes are tied in the Senate, the Vice President, who is also President of the Senate, casts the deciding vote.

Under that scenario, Democrats would formally control the upper chamber, including the Committee chairmanships.

Georgia was officially called for the President-Elect last Friday, with Biden carrying the Peach State 49.5% to Trump's 49.2% -- a 14,172 vote margin.

Democratic hopes of taking both Senate seats are bouyed by the fact that Biden is the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

While the close count triggered an automatic manual recount of the unprecedented 5 million votes cast in the presidential contest, the tally, which concludes Wednesday, November 18th, at 11:59pm, is not expected to change the outcome.

Georgia History
While Georgia has long been a GOP stronghold, Democrats have made significant gains in a growing and shifting voter demographic which put the state in play as a presidential battleground for the first time in decades.

Abrams' efforts credited by many for Biden victory (Elijah Nouvelage/AFP)

Biden's victory can be attributed to an unprecedented grassroots organizing effort that has invigorated a rapidly diversifying electorate, producing small but steady gains for Democrats in recent election cycles.

The progress has also shined a light on historic voter suppression in the state, which boasts some of the country's strictest voter identification requirements.

Georgia was ground zero for voter disenfranchisement in 2018, in the nation's highest-profile Governor's election, which witnessed a huge surge in minority turnout. In that contest, Republican Brian Kemp, who at the time was Secretary of State and in charge of running the election process, won by 50,000 votes over Stacey Abrams, the African-American former State House Minority Leader.

The same year, the GOP lost one US House seat and held onto their majority in both state chambers, but lost two seats in the state senate and nine in the state house.

Since her loss, Abrams founded Fair Fight 2020, and has spearheaded state and national efforts to register and get out Democratic voters who stayed home in previous cycles, particularly in cities like Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs.

While those efforts laid the foundation for a Biden win in Georgia, the battle for its two US Senate seats, which will determine control of the US Senate in 2021, is a more daunting task.

In Georgia, candidates of both parties run in an open election and if no one candidate secures over 50% of the vote, then the top two candidates advance to a runoff election.

The Senate Seats
Georgia has two US Senate seats up in 2020. The first is the regular election up for incumbent Republican David Perdue, and the second is the special election to fill the remaining term of Republican Johnny Isakson, who left the Senate in December of 2019 due to health issues.

Joe Ossoff and  Senator David Perdue. (John Amis & Kohn Bazemore/AP)

Both now go to a runoff on Tuesday, January 5th.

Georgia One
David Perdue (R) 49.7% v. Jon Ossoff (D) 48.0%
Count: Perdue 2,458,731 v. Ossoff 2,372,250
With 98% reporting, Perdue leads Ossoff by roughly 86,841 votes.

Georgia's junior Senator, David Perdue, was first elected in 2014 with 52.89% of the vote. A former businessman, and cousin of former Trump Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (R), he served as CEO of Reebok, Dollar General, and Pillowtex.

Perdue is being challenged by investigative journalist Jon Ossoff, who first drew national attention in a high-profile, but unsuccessful, April, 2017 Special Congressional Election.

Georgia Special

Raphael Warnock (D) 32.9% v. Kelly Loeffler (R) 25.9% v. Doug Collins (R) 19.9%
Count: Warnock 1,615,424 v. Loeffler 1,271,116 v. Collins 978,938

After Isakson's mid-term retirement, Governor Brian Kemp (R) appointed businesswoman and co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream Kelly Loeffler as interim Senator through the November 3rd special election.

That election centered on the bitter battle between Loeffler and outspoken Congressman Doug Collins, who helped lead the fight against the President's impeachment in the House, and who challenged Loeffler against the wishes of the Senate GOP establishment.

In the interim, Democratic candidate and Atlanta Ebenezer Baptist Church Reverend Raphael Warnock surged past the two, with a roughly 344,000 vote lead over Loeffler, who will now face him in the runoff.

All this sets the stage for what can be expected to be the most expensive Senate race in history, with both parties and outside groups already pouring in millions of dollars, and dispatching virtually thousands of field operatives to the small southern state.

Seven weeks out. DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott

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