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The night the GOP’s lights went out in Georgia: Democrats gain Senate control
Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeat Republican U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ATLANTA (CFP) — Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won Georgia’s two hotly contested U.S. Senate runoffs Tuesday, handing Democrats control of the U.S. Senate and removing a significant impediment to President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
In the last act of a long and contentious political season, Warnock — the senior pastor of Atlanta’s iconic Ebenezer Baptist Church who was making his political debut — defeated Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, leading by about 564,000 votes, or margin of 50.3% to 49.3%.
Ossoff defeated U.S. Senator David Perdue by a smaller 25,000-vote margin, or 50.3% to 49.7%, a sweep of both races in a state that had not elected a Democrat to the Senate in 20 years.
In a victory video posted on his campaign website, Warnock said “we were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
“I am going to the Senate to work for all of the people of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election.”
Warnock will make history as the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia.
Loeffler, the multimillionaire Atlanta businesswoman appointed to the Senate last year by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, did not concede during brief remarks to her supporters, who gathered in person Tuesday night despite the COVID-19 pandemic: “We have a path to victory, and we’re staying on it.”
In a video post Wednesday morning, Ossoff, who narrowly lost a U.S. House race in 2017, thanked supporters and said he would focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic once he gets to Washington.
“This campaign has been about health and jobs and justice for the people of this state,” said Ossoff, who, at 33, will become the youngest person to serve in the Senate in the last 40 years. “They will be my guiding principles as I serve this state in the U.S. Senate.”
Perdue’s campaign released a statement saying that “this exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate.”
“We will mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are counted,” the statement said. “We believe in the end, Senator Perdue will be victorious.”
However, Ossoff’s margin was more than twice as large as Biden’s win in November, which held up through two recounts.
Perdue, who was seeking a second term, had been in quarantine and off the campaign trail in the closing days of the race after a campaign staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
Tuesday’s results are yet another electoral rebuke to President Donald Trump, who lost Georgia in November and roiled the Senate runoffs with unsubstantiated claims of fraud and biting criticism of Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who refused to validate Trump’s fraud allegations.
The Senate will be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking the tie to give Democrats control.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will lose his leadership perch, although he will remain as minority leader in a Senate divided 50-50.
With Senate control on the line, the four candidates and outside groups poured more than $882 million into the races — about $83 for every man, woman and child in the state.
The unprecedented spectacle of two Senate runoff elections on the same day in Georgia was the result of a Senate vacancy and an unusual feature of state law that requires candidates in general elections to secure an outright majority to win.
Loeffler was appointed to the Senate last year by Kemp to replace Johnny Isakson, who retired due to ill health. That triggered a special election to fill the two remaining years in Isakson’s turn, which featured an all-party contest in November in which the top two vote-getters — Warnock and Loeffler — won spots in a runoff.
Perdue defeated Ossoff in November’s vote but narrowly missed winning an outright majority, which Georgia law uniquely requires. So the two men faced each other again Tuesday.
With the Democratic victories in Georgia, the number of senators representing Southern states will rise from three to five, compared with 23 Republicans.
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Voters heading to polls as election day finally arrives across the South
Democrats poised to possibly have their best result in a generation
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Amid unprecedented levels of early voting, a deadly pandemic, racial unrest, and partisan political turmoil, voters across the South will give their final verdict Tuesday, as in-person voting brings the 2020 election to a conclusion.
The most watched story line will be whether Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden can flip some Southern states into his column and whether Republican incumbents in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House can hang on amid the severe disruption to the nation’s political climate caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Four Southern states carried by President Donald Trump in 2016 are in play, including the traditional battlegrounds of North Carolina and Florida, joined by previously safe states Georgia and Texas. A Democrat hasn’t carried Texas in 44 years; Georgia, hasn’t gone for a Democrat in 28 years.
As many as six U.S. Senate seats could also change hands, five of which are held by Republicans. And Democrats are hoping to build on their gains made in the U.S. House in 2018, particularly in Texas, where as many as seven seats could be in play.
Democrats are also trying to flip state legislative chambers in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia, which would increase their influence of the reapportionment process after this year’s census.
In Alabama, Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones is trying to keep his seat in a contest with the Republican nominee, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. Given the Yellowhammer State’s ruby red political leanings, Jones’s seat is seen as the GOP’s best opportunity nationally for a pick-up.
In North Carolina, Republican U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is trying to beat back a challenge from Democrat Cal Cunningham, who has led in the polls throughout the race. Cunningham is facing headwinds after admitting to an extramarital affair, although the revelations have not seemed to dent his poll numbers.
In South Carolina, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is facing a spirited challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison, who has raised more money for this race than any Senate candidate in history. Graham’s transformation from being a critic of Trump to one of his biggest defenders has brought national attention to the contest.
In Georgia, both U.S. Senate seats are up this year. Republican U.S Senator David Perdue is being challenged by Democrat Jon Ossoff in one race; the second is an all-party special election with 20 candidates, which has narrowed down to a chase for runoff spots between Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, appointed to the seat last year; Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who decided to challenge Loeffler after he was overlooked for the appointment, and Democrat Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, who making his political debut.
Because of a quirk in Georgia law, both of these races will head to a runoff in January if none of the candidates get a majority on Tuesday. Ossoff and Perdue have been neck-and-neck in the polls; Warnock leads the special election race but will likely fall short of avoiding the runoff.
In Texas, Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn is facing Democrat MJ Hegar. This race has tightened as Biden’s numbers have gone up in the Lone Star State, although Cornyn still has an edge.
Two other Southern states have Senate races that have been competitive but appear unlikely to flip: Kentucky, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing Democrat Amy McGrath, and Mississippi, where Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is facing Democrat Mike Espy.
Six Democrats who flipped Southern House seats in 2018 are in battles to keep their seats:
- Virginia 2 (metro Norfolk): Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria is facing a rematch against the man she ousted in 2018, Republican Scott Taylor,.
- Virginia 7 (Richmond suburbs, central Virginia): Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger faces Republican State Delegate Nick Freitas.
- Georgia 6 (Northwest Atlanta suburbs): Democratic incumbent Lucy McBath is also facing a rematch against her 2018 opponent, Republican Karen Handel.
- Oklahoma 5 (Metro Oklahoma City): Democrat Kendra Horn’s win here in 2018 was among the biggest shocks of the election. She is facing Republican State Senator Stephanie Bice.
- South Carolina 1 (Lowcountry and Charleston): Incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham faces Republican State Rep. Nancy Mace.
- Florida 26 (South Miami-Dade and Florida Keys): Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is facing Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Republicans are trying to hang on to four open seats that are in danger of flipping:
- Georgia 7 (Northeast Atlanta suburbs): Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, is facing Republican Rich McCormick.
- Virginia 5 (Central Virginia around Lynchburg): Republican Bob Good is facing Democrat Cameron Webb.
- Texas 22 (Southwestern Houston suburbs): Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls is trying to keep the seat for Republicans against Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni
- Texas 24 (Metro Dallas-Fort Worth): The Republican nominee, former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, is facing Democrat Candace Valenzuela.
A number of Republican incumbents are trying to keep their seats against strong Democratic challenges:
- Arkansas 2 (Metro Little Rock): Republican French Hill vs. Democratic State Senator Joyce Elliott.
- Florida 16 (Sarasota and Bradenton): Republican Vern Buchanan vs. Democratic State Rep. Margaret Good.
- Florida 18 (Treasure Coast): Republican Brian Mast vs. Democrat Pam Keith
- North Carolina 8 (Piedmont between Fayetteville and Charlotte): Republican Richard Hudson vs. Democrat Pat Timmons-Goodson.
- North Carolina 9 (Charlotte suburbs east toward Fayetteville): Republican Dan Bishop vs. Democrat Cynthia Wallace.
- Texas 2 (Houston): Republican Dan Crenshaw vs. Democrat Sima Ladjevardian.
- Texas 3 (Northern Dallas suburbs): Republican Van Taylor vs. Democrat Lulu Seikaly.
- Texas 6 (Arlington, Waxahatchie, Corsicana): Republican Ron Wright vs. Democrat Stephen Daniel.
- Texas 10 (North Austin suburbs, northwest Houston suburbs, areas between): Republican Mike McCaul vs. Democrat Mike Siegel.
- Texas 21 (Austin and Hill Country/San Antonio suburbs): Republican Chip Roy, vs. former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis.
- Texas 25 (Suburban Austin, central Texas): Republican Roger Williams vs. Democrat Julie Oliver.
- Texas 31 (North Austin suburbs, Temple): Republican John Carter vs. Democrat Donna Imam.
Georgia U.S. Rep. Doug Collins gets into U.S. Senate race, igniting GOP squabble
Trump champion will challenge Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat in December
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ATLANTA (CFP) — Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Colllins, one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress, will run in a November special election against the state’s newly minted U.S. senator, Kelly Loeffler, defying the man who appointed her, Governor Brian Kemp, and triggering an intra-party squabble with potential implications for Senate control.
“We’re getting ready for a good time down here to keep defending this president, keep him working for the people of Georgia,” Collins said in a Wednesday morning appearance on “Fox & Friends” where he confirmed his candidacy. “We just need to have a process that let’s the people decide. Let them choose for themselves how they want to see this vision.”
In December, Kemp appointed Loeffler, a wealthy Atlanta business executive who had not previously held political office, to the seat vacated by veteran Republican Johnny Isakson, rebuffing furious lobbying by conservatives who preferred Collins, a Gainesville Republican serving his fourth term in the House who has led the charge against Trump’s impeachment as ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
The question that will now hang over the race is whether Trump will buck Kemp and the Senate Republican establishment and endorse Collins over Loeffler, the incumbent. The president was reportedly cool to Loeffler’s appointment before it was made, although he has since singled her out for praise.
Asked if he expected Trump’s support, Collins said, “I think that’s up the president.”
Even with Trump’s support, Collins will have to battle against what is likely to be Loeffler’s significant financial advantage. He starts the race with less than $1.4 million in his campaign account, while she is expected to tap $20 million from her own fortune for the campaign.
Collins decision to run against Loeffler immediate drew fire from the Senate Republicans’ campaign organization and a political action committee allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“The shortsightedness in this decision is stunning,” said Kevin McLaughlin, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a statement. “Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt (Georgia U.S. Senator) David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come. All he has done is put two senate seats, multiple house seats, and Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in play.”
“It’s so selfish of Doug Collins to be promoting himself when President Trump needs a unified team and Senator Loeffler is such a warrior for the President,” said Steven Law, president of the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, in a statement. “As we’ve said before, Senator Loeffler is an outsider like Trump, not just another D.C. politician. We’ll have her back if she needs us.”
Collins fired right back on Twitter, employing one of Trump’s favorite phrases to deride McLaughlin’s comments: “This is FAKE NEWS coming from the head of a Washington-based group whose bylaws require him to support all incumbents, even unelected ones.”
In addition to Loeffler’s seat, Perdue is also up for election in 2020. The two Republican-held seats in Georgia will be key in Democratic efforts to overturn the GOP’s three-seat Senate majority.
The next act in the Collins-Loeffler race may take place in the Georgia legislature, where Collins supporters — with the backing of Democrats — may try to change the rules governing the November special election to his advantage.
As state law now stands, candidates from all parties will run in November, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff if no one gets a majority. However, some Republicans in the House, with the support of Speaker David Ralston, are pushing to create regular party primaries for seat, which would set up a one-on-one match-up between Collins and Loeffler in a Republican-only electorate.
Kemp has threatened to veto the bill. However, House Democrats have indicated they may support the change, which could create a veto-proof majority with just 45 out of the 104 Republicans in the House.
In addition to possibly helping Collins, a party primary would ensure that a Democrat would get a clean shot at either Loeffler or Collins, rather than battling them both.
Democrats, not surprisingly, were gleeful about Collins’s decision to enter the race and upset Kemp’s best-laid plans.
“This expensive, protracted brawl — already playing out on the front page — will force unelected mega-donor Senator Loeffler and Trump ally Congressman Collins into a race to the right that reveals just how out-of-touch both are with Georgia voters,” said Helen Kalla, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a statement.
Four Democrats have already gotten into the race against Loeffler, including Matt Lieberman, a businessman from Cobb County and son of former Connecticut U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman; Ed Tarver, a former state senator and federal prosecutor from Augusta; Richard Winfield, a philosophy professor at the University of Georgia; and Tamara Johnson-Shealey, a nail salon owner and law student from DeKalb County.
Raphael Warnock, the high-profile senior pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, is also expected to join the race.
Collins, 53, was a lawyer and Baptist pastor before being elected to Congress in 2012. He is also a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force reserves.
His 9th District, which covers the state’s northeastern corner, is heavily Republican and is likely to stay in GOP hands after his departure, though his pursuit of the Senate will likely trigger a competitive primary in the five weeks remaining before the filing deadline.
Before being appointed to the Senate, Loeffler, 49, worked as an executive at Intercontinental Exchange, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange; she is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the company’s founder and CEO.
Loeffler is also co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, which she purchased with a partner in 2010.
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Democrat Jon Ossoff jumps into Georgia U.S. Senate race against David Perdue
Ossoff became a national political sensation in unsuccessful 2017 U.S. House race
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
ATLANTA (CFP) — Democrat Jon Ossoff, who raised and spent more than $30 million in an unsuccessful congressional bid in the wake of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election, will return to the political stage to challenge Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue in 2020.
Ossoff announced his run with a video on Twitter and local and national video appearances in which he cast himself as someone who will take on a “crisis of political corruption” in Washington.
“[Perdue] is a guy who has not once in five years come down from his private island to hold a single public town hall,” Ossoff said in an interview on MSNBC. “He is a caricature of Washington corruption.”
Among the “corruption” Ossoff cited was the influence of money on politics, concentration of wealth and the refusal of Congress to pass gun control measures opposed by the National Rifle Association.
“We need now to mount an all-out attack on political corruption in America, or I’m not sure our democracy will survive, ” he said.
Ossoff’s decision gives Democrats a high-profile challenger with proven fundraising chops to run against Perdue as they try to overturn the GOP’s three-seat majority in the Senate.
He also got a quick endorsement from Georgia Democratic icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who in a statement said Ossoff’s 2017 campaign “sparked a flame that is burning brighter than ever, in Georgia and across the country.”
However, the National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly dismissed Ossoff as a “unaccomplished, far-left candidate” who “will stand in sharp contrast to David Perdue’s positive record of delivering results for all of Georgia.”
Ossoff, 32, is a former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker. In 2017, shortly after Trump’s election, he ran for the 6th District U.S. House seat in Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs, which turned into a high-octane relitigation of the presidential vote.
Although the 6th was long considered a safe Republican seat, Ossoff channeled national Democratic anger over 2016 into a fundraising behemoth, eventually raising and spending nearly $32 million to make the race competitive.
In the end, he lost by 3 points to Republican Karen Handel; however, Democrat Lucy McBath — running with the political infrastructure built by Ossoff’s campaign — defeated Handel in 2018.
With the retirement of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson at the end of this year, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot in 2020.
Ossoff decided to pursue the Democratic nomination to oppose Perdue rather than running in an open contest for Isakson’s seat against candidates from both parties, likely including Isakson’s yet-to-be-announced temporary Republican replacement, who will be appointed by Governor Brian Kemp.
By choosing to run for Perdue’s seat, Ossoff will have to win a primary in which three other Democrats are already running. However, going after Isakson’s seat would have required him to defend it again in 2022 if he won it in 2020.
The last Democrat to win a Senate race in Georgia was the late Zell Miller in 2000.
Other Democrats in the race against Perdue include Sarah Riggs Amico, the party’s unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018; Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.
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Georgia Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson will resign at the end of the year
Decision means both of the Peach State’s Senate seats will be up in 2020
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Two days after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor from his kidney, Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia has announced he will resign at the end of the year because due to poor health.
The decision means that both of the Peach State’s Senate seats will be open in 2020, giving Republicans another seat to defend in as they try to maintain their three-seat majority in Congress’s upper chamber.
Isakson, who has been battling Parkinson’s disease, underwent surgery on August 26 for removal of a renal carcinoma. In a statement announcing his resignation, he said, “I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff.”
“With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve,” he said. “It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state.”
Republican Governor Brian Kemp will appoint a replacement for Isakson to serve until a special election is held in November 2020 to fill the two years remaining on his Senate term.
The seat of the state’s other Republican senator, David Perdue, is also up for election in 2020, putting both seats on the ballot.
However, under state law, there will be no party primaries for Isakson’s seat. Candidates from all parties will run in the same race, with the top two finishers meeting in a runoff if no one gets a majority.
That last time that happened in Georgia, in 2017 in the 6th U.S. House district, it triggered a contentious nationalized race between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff during which the candidates blew through $50 million. Handel won that race, although she lost the seat to Democrat Lucy McBath in 2018.
One possible Democratic contender for Isakson’s seat, Stacey Abrams, the party’s unsuccessful candidate against Kemp in 2018, quickly announced that she would not be a candidate. She had earlier passed on challenging Perdue.
Isakson, 74, was first elected to the Senate in 2004 after losing campaigns for governor in 1990 and Senate in 1996. He was re-elected easily in 2010 and 2016, becoming the first Republican in state history to win three Senate elections.
His decision to retire brings to a close a storied career in Georgia GOP politics, dating back to the early 1970s when he was among a small number of Republicans serving in the Democrat-dominated legislature, representing suburban Cobb County near Atlanta.
In 1990, Isakson gave up his legislative seat to run for governor against conservative Democrat Zell Miller, falling short but coming closer than any Republican had in decades — a portent of the rising fortunes for a GOP that now dominates state politics.
In 1999, Isakson was elected to the U.S. House to succeed former Speaker Newt Gingrich and went to the Senate five years later when Miller retired.
In 2013, Isakson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but sought re-election in 2016 as he battled the illness. However, this summer he was seriously injured in a fall at his Washington home. After returning to Georgia for the congressional recess, he underwent surgery to remove what his office described as “a 2-centimeter renal cell carcinoma” from his kidney.