In separate interviews on Sunday, the two Democratic candidates for US Senate in Georgia said their runoff elections in January would be decisive for America’s future.
If Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock beat their Republican incumbent opponents, Democrats will regain control of the Senate, Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaking vice-president in a chamber split 50-50. Though precarious, that would give Joe Biden greater hope of implementing his legislative agenda.
Democrats hold the US House but fear a Republican-controlled Senate would hamper everything from a nationwide Covid-19 response to economic stimulus initiatives. Republicans fear losing a vital foothold on Capitol Hill. As a result, tens of millions of dollars are flowing into Georgia, where Ossoff will face David Perdue and Warnock will face Kelly Loeffler in the 5 January runoffs, necessitated by no candidate receiving more than 50% of the vote this month.
“Trump is leaving, whether he knows it or not,” Ossoff told ABC’s This Week, referring to the president’s refusal to concede defeat by Biden. “And the question now is how we’re going to contain this pandemic which is raging out of control, which is spreading at an accelerating rate.”
Ossoff won 48% of the vote to Perdue’s 49.7%. The remainder went to a Libertarian who is now out of the race.
“There are hundreds of thousands of lives hanging in the balance, there are millions of jobs and homes and livelihoods hanging in the balance,” Ossoff said. “And that’s why it’s so important to win these two Senate races so that the incoming presidential administration can govern, can lead, can enact the solutions necessary to contain this virus and invest in economic recovery.”
Georgia went to Biden in the presidential election, a recount unlikely to change the result. Crediting former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ organizing efforts for shifting Georgia’s vote – no Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since 1996 – Ossoff said: “What we’re feeling for the first time in four years is hope.
“With Trump departing, we have the opportunity to define the next chapter in American history, to lead out of this crisis. But only by winning these Senate seats.
“The GOP at the national level has no leader, has no message and has no vision other than stopping Joe Biden. But we are in a crisis, we need leadership, we need to make sure that Joe Biden can govern and this administration is successful.”
Warnock, a pastor, won 33% of the vote over Loeffler’s 26%, with the rest going to other candidates including Doug Collins, a Republican US representative. In total, Democratic candidates polled 35.7% and Republicans 45.8%. Warnock told CNN’s State of the Union that did not worry him.
“I finished first, handily, far ahead of a candidate who’s the wealthiest member of Congress, who poured millions of dollars into this race,” he said.
“And we finished in a strong position. There’s no question in my mind that as Georgians hear about my commitment to access to affordable healthcare, the dignity of work, the work I’ve been doing for years standing up for ordinary people, we will prevail come 5 January.”
The CNN host Jake Tapper pointed out that Republicans have tried to link Warnock to Democrats in Washington, to cast him as a dangerous radical.
“Listen,” Warnock said. “This is a Georgia race. And I’m Georgia. I grew up in Savannah, Georgia, my church is in Atlanta. I’m pastor of the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr.
“I grew up in public housing, one of 12 children in my family. I’m number 11. And the first graduate of a four-year college in my family. I know personally the importance of good federal policy, combined with personal responsibility, work, grit and determination. That’s the reason I’m able to run for the United States Senate. I am an iteration of the American dream.
“I’m running for the Senate because that promise is slipping away from far too many people. That’s what this race is about … and that’s what I can take, I will continue to lift up. Even as I move across the great state of Georgia, people are responding to that message.”
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