The Runoff Report: Loeffler, Warnock debate highlights backgrounds, criticisms

Republicans have secured 50 seats in the next U.S. Senate compared to Democrats’ 48 (including two independents who caucus with them). Control of the next Senate comes down to Georgia’s runoff elections. In The Runoff Report, we provide the latest on each race and the fight for Senate control.

Regular election updates

David Perdue campaigned in Floyd County with U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) Dec. 5 and former Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), his cousin, in Houston County Dec. 6. ” While campaigning with Crenshaw, Perdue said:

“There are two reasons we cannot give up these two seats. … The number one is that Chuck Schumer will be the majority leader of the United States Senate. And if Biden ends up being the president, he would then have a majority. … Two weeks ago, we heard Chuck Schumer in New York say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna take Georgia and change America.’ I’ve got a message for Chuck: We ain’t ready to give Georgia away yet. … The other reason we need to win these two Senate seats is to protect everything that Donald Trump accomplished in these first four years.”

Also Dec. 6, Perdue’s campaign manager, Ben Fry, issued a statement about Jon Ossoff’s appearance at an Atlantic Press Club event. Perdue declined an invitation to appear for a debate. Fry said, “Jon Ossoff came out in support of blanket amnesty, a national lockdown and made clear he doesn’t want to ‘get bogged down in the details’ about additional COVID relief. … These are serious times and Jon Ossoff just showed how unserious — and unprepared — he really is.”

Jon Ossoff answered questions from Fox5’s Russ Spencer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein, and WABE Radio Morning Edition host Lisa Rayam. Here are some of the highlights.

On potential lockdowns:

  • “I will listen to the public health experts. And if they recommend that more aggressive mitigation measures are necessary to save lives, it would be foolish for politicians to ignore their advice.”

On Perdue missing the debate:

  • “[Y]our senator feels entitled to your vote. Your senator is refusing to answer questions and debate his opponent, because he believes he shouldn’t have to; he believes this Senate seat belongs to him. This Senate seat belongs to the people.”

On Perdue’s stock trades:

  • “I haven’t seen one shred of evidence that David Perdue has presented that any federal agency has cleared him. What I observe is that he has not yet been indicted for obvious financial misconduct. … The standard for our elected officials must be higher than merely evading prosecution.”

On COVID stimulus aid package:

  • “Point one: Stimulus checks directly for the people. I mentioned Senator Perdue opposed even the first round of stimulus checks. … Direct relief for small businesses. The PPP program has not been reauthorized since the summertime. It needs to be reauthorized, it needs to be expanded. And checks need to be put in place to make sure that larger firms are not exploiting that program and small and black-owned businesses are not being denied access to it. We need to get significant financial support to our public health infrastructure. … And … we need a significant infrastructure and jobs package to invest in long-term economic recovery.”

From his closing statement:

  • “We can pass legislation to secure equal justice for all under the law. We can get out of this health crisis by empowering doctors and scientists. We can rush short-term financial relief to working families and businesses. And then we can pass an infrastructure and jobs package … We can raise the minimum wage to $15. We can make Georgia the leading producer of clean energy and tackle the climate crisis. … I may not always vote the way you want me to, but you can rest assured I will come to forums like this one and answer questions in open.”

Other topics included immigration, climate and environmental policy, and policing. Click here to view a video of the event.

This election is for a full six-year term ending January 2027. Perdue was first elected in 2014. Ossoff ran against Karen Handel (R) in the 6th Congressional District special election in 2017.

Click here for more coverage of the regular election.

Special election updates

Kelly Loeffler and Raphael Warnock met for an Atlanta Press Club debate Dec. 6. The candidates highlighted their backgrounds, policy priorities, and criticisms of one another. Here are some highlights.

What’s on the ballot (closing statements):

  • Loeffler: “There are two visions for our country: Mine, the American dream; my opponent, socialism. This is what’s on the ballot January 5th, the American Dream. … I have been blessed to live the American Dream. But Chuck Schumer said it best, ‘Now we take Georgia, then we change America.’ They would increase our taxes, open our borders, socialize our healthcare, and my opponent, radical liberal Raphael Warnock, is his agent of change.” 
  • Warnock: “I think about my dad in a moment like this, God bless his memory. He used to wake me up every morning at dawn and say, ‘Get ready, get dressed, put your shoes on.’ It was dawn, and so it was morning, but it was still dark. It’s dark right now, but morning is on the way. It’s our job, Georgia, to put our shoes on and get ready, because there are those who are engaged in the politics of division. … Tell everybody you know to make a vote plan because healthcare is on the ballot, workers are on the ballot, voting rights is on the ballot, criminal justice reform is on the ballot.” 

Personal backgrounds:

  • Loeffler: “I was born and raised on a farm. I grew up working in the fields. I waitressed my way through school and I was the first in my family to graduate from college. I worked hard to live the American dream and became a job creator right here in Georgia.” 
  • Warnock: “I grew up in public housing, the first college graduate in my family of 12. I’m number 11. And if it were not for Pell Grants, low-interest student loans, I wouldn’t be here. I know the importance of good federal policy.”

Records:

  • Loeffler: “I was pleased to support all the relief packages this spring when we were addressing this virus. Over $3 trillion of relief to Americans, $47 billion that I helped bring right here to Georgia, including $7 billion for hospitals, 174,000 small businesses that I brought $15 billion in PPP funds to, saved 1.5 million jobs. And in fact, I voted twice on the Senate floor in recent months to support a package that Democrats have blocked.”
  • Warnock: “The thing about me running for the Senate is that this gives me an opportunity to work on the issues I’ve been working on for years. I’ve been fighting for access to affordable healthcare, I’ve been fighting for voting rights, I’ve been fighting for essential workers, ordinary people, because I know what it’s like to be an ordinary person.”

Warnock asked Loeffler about stock trading and COVID relief:

Warnock said: “Senator Loeffler, when you received the private briefing regarding the coronavirus pandemic, you dumped millions of dollars of stock in order to protect your own investments. And then weeks later, when there came an opportunity to give ordinary Georgians an extra $600 of relief, you said you saw no need and called it counterproductive. Why do you think it’s counterproductive to help ordinary Georgians in the middle of a pandemic?”

  • Loeffler: “Well, thank you for that question, because I’ve been completely exonerated. Those are lies perpetrated by the left wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda. Since I got to the Senate, I’ve worked hard to deliver relief to Georgians during this pandemic, and I’m continuing to do that. But look what Democrats have done. They have stood for stonewalling relief that I voted for twice in the Senate to deliver relief to families, to farmers, to schools and hospitals. They’re playing politics.”

Loeffler asked Warnock about socialism:

Loeffler said, “Reverend Warnock, in your writings and your teachings you’ve repeatedly praised Marxism and the redistribution of income. Can you here and now for all Georgians renounce socialism and Marxism?”

  • Warnock: “I believe in our free enterprise system, and my dad was a small business owner. During the Great Recession, you know what I was doing? I was leading my church to build a community center, where among other things we had a financial literacy center that taught people how to repair their credit, create a 700 credit score community, how to create a business, how to buy a home, how to participate in our free enterprise system.”

Loeffler on the presidential election:

Moderator Greg Bluestein asked Loeffler, “Do you stand by [Trump’s] narrative that the election was rigged and do you support his demand that Governor Kemp to call a special session to seek to overturn those results?”

  • Loeffler: “[I]t’s vitally important that Georgians trust our election process and the president has every right to every legal recourse and that’s what’s taking place. But I’ve called for investigations and now there’s 250 investigations open here in Georgia. But the president was also clear that Georgians need to come out and vote for David Perdue and myself because of what’s at stake in this election.”

Warnock on the Supreme Court:

Bluestein asked Warnock, “Would you support adding more justices to the Supreme Court to offset President Trump’s recent appointments, and do you think there needs to be term limits for justices on the bench?”

  • Warnock: “[A]s I move all across the state, Greg, people aren’t asking me about the courts and whether we should expand the courts. I know that’s an interesting question for people inside the beltway to discuss, but they’re wondering when in the world are they going to get some COVID-19 relief?”

Other topics included Warnock’s past statements on police and the military, Loeffler’s healthcare plan, Black Lives Matter, and policing. Click here for a video of the event. 

The special election will fill the remainder of the term Johnny Isakson (R) won in 2016. He resigned in Dec. 2019, and Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler, co-owner of the WNBA team Atlanta Dream. Warnock is senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The winner will complete the term ending in January 2023. 

Click here for more coverage of the special election.

Overall campaign updates

  • President Donald Trump hosted a rally in Valdosta Dec. 6 along with Perdue, Loeffler, and Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald (R). View a video here.
  • AdImpact reported that the four campaigns and various satellite groups had spent $315 million on media in the runoffs as of Dec. 4. 

    The special runoff election has garnered $170 million of that total. Warnock has spent $60 million to Loeffler’s $45 million. Republican advertisers have spent $53 million to Democrats’ $13 million. AdImpact wrote: “The largest Republican advertiser, American Crossroads, has spent $44.2M on ads that began airing on November 24th and are set to run through January 5th. As of now, no Democratic advertiser has booked their spending through January 5th. Instead have been adding to their current spends on a weekly basis.”



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