Indiana Daily Student

Georgia runoff election holds the fate of the senate, IU students anticipate results

Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff, left, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock bump elbows Nov. 19 on stage at a rally in Jonesboro, Georgia.
Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff, left, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock bump elbows Nov. 19 on stage at a rally in Jonesboro, Georgia.

Democratic party candidates Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will face off against incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in a special runoff election for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats on Jan 5.

This special election is the result of none of the candidates winning 50% of the vote in their initial elections Nov. 3. This development allows Warnock and Ossoff to continue their quests to be the first Georgia Democrats to win a U.S. Senate election since 2000. 

With the recent surge of Democratic political momentum in notoriously red states, Georgia’s special election could be the beginning of a shift in political norms. Monroe, Marion, Tippecanoe, Lake and St. Joseph were the only blue-voting counties in Indiana. However, one thing all these counties have in common is that they house IU students. Hoosiers can take a look at this special election and the 2020 presidential elections and see that they can make a change in their communities. 

Since 2005, Warnock, a 1991 graduate of Morehouse College, has served as the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. A landmark in the Atlanta community, the church enjoys the honor of being the former congregation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The reverend has been a prominent member and activist in the Georgia community for decades. Warnock led a 2014 sit-in in support of Medicaid expansion at the Georgia State Capital and sits as chairman of the New Georgia Project, which aims to increase voter registration in Georgia.

In recent months, he has been on the receiving end of a politically vicious smear campaign by Loeffler and the GOP. He’s been labeled a radical and has been the target of various attack ads. 

“My faith is the foundation upon which I have built my life,” Warnock said in a tweet. “It guides my service to my community and my country. [Loeffler’s] attacks on our faith are not just disappointing — they are hurtful to Black churches across Georgia.”  

Currently serving as the junior Republican United States senator from Georgia, Loeffler hails from Bloomington, Illinois. The University of Illinois alumna was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in December 2019, after Sen. Johnny Isakson resigned due to health issues. 

Loeffler has proven to be an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump during her freshman year on the hill. From not accepting Trump's loss in the 2020 election to more recently siding with the president's demand for $2,000 stimulus checks, Loeffler has aligned herself with Trump.

A recent criticism regarding Loeffler’s campaign has been her proximity to white supremacy. She recently received backlash after taking a picture with former KKK and neo-Nazi national alliance member Chester Doles. The senator has since denounced white supremacy and claimed she had no idea who Doles was.

“Kelly had no idea who that was, and if she had she would have kicked him out immediately because we condemn in the most vociferous terms everything that he stands for,” Loeffler’s campaign spokesperson Stephen Lawson said in a statement.

Should he win on Jan. 5, Ossoff will become the youngest member of Congress at age 33. Working as the CEO of an investigative television production company, he has not held public office. However, Ossoff interned for the late Sen. John Lewis in high school and acted as a national security staffer/aide to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., from 2006 to 2012. 

The Georgetown alumnus is no stranger to a runoff election against incumbent candidates. His last political opponent was Tom Price in Georgia’s 2017 6th Congressional District special election, in which he lost 48.2% to 51.8%. 

A strong advocate for Medicaid and federal cannabis legalization, Ossoff’s election could help ease the mental hardship of the pandemic on Indiana residents by getting them cheaper health care and legal weed. 

The Georgia native is ending the race with a strong show of support from the incoming administration. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris hosted a drive-in rally in Savannah on Jan 3. Additionally, President-elect Joe Biden recently released an ad in support of both Ossoff and Warnock’s campaigns. 

Perdue, a Republican incumbent and another Trump supporter, has been a member of the Senate since 2014. A born and bred Georgian, Perdue graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelor’s in industrial engineering in 1972 and an operations research master’s degree in 1975. 

Perdue has repeatedly appeared to think some of our scientists are cappin' — he doesn’t seem to believe in climate change, only in no changes to his power. He is in favor of Trump’s $2,000 stimulus checks. 

A leaked audio file depicting the president trying to pressure Georgia election officials into “finding” him more votes was recently released by the Washington Post. Perdue appeared on the Fox News television program, The Next Revolution yesterday, and when asked about the tapes, he distanced himself from the issue. 

Both Ossoff and Warnock have widened their leads over their opponents, according to recent polls. A win for both candidates means the Republicans, after 6 consecutive years, will no longer have a majority in the Senate. 

The U.S. Constitution dictates that if the Senate votes to tie, the sitting vice president shall break the tie. With Vice President Mike Pence leaving office, the deciding vote will be cast by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Should one or both incumbent senators win their respective races, there will be no change to the Senate majority.

In this tie-breaking contingency-scenario, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will no longer be the Senate majority leader, and the title will transition to Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. This shift in power can only begin on Jan. 20, should Warnock and Ossoff win their respective races. Should these events occur, it will permit President-elect Joe Biden to keep more of his campaign promises and prime more progressive Democrats to push forward bolder legislation.

The 116th Congress has only enacted 2% of 16,000+ bills on the floor since Jan 3, 2019, leaving more than 14,000 bills in a “legislative graveyard.” With a new majority leader, more of these bills may get to see the debate floor.

Like any election, the runoff will promote a chief and bipartisan problem for the candidates – money. Both Democratic candidates have raised more than $100 million from Oct. 15 – Dec. 16 versus Perdue’s $68 million and Loeffler’s $64 million during the same time frame. Despite this financial advantage, this special election will still be an expensive battle for the Democratic candidates as Loeffler and Perdue make up some of the wealthiest members of the senate. 

Bloomington students are aware of the importance of this race and understand what’s at stake. This election will be key in determining the outcome of the COVID-19 stimulus checks, Medicaid and other emergency legislation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This will also affect the Indiana state government's continued battle against the pandemic with rising death numbers across the state. 

With bars shuttered and IU football's spectacular season spent socially distanced, a change in who is running the country may help Hoosiers get back to their full college lives. Indiana has already begun distributing the vaccine to frontline workers and more COVID-19 relief will help in their efforts. 

As the country waits in anticipation as the votes are tallied in Georgia, one question remains: Will Hoosier nation welcome back its former governor with open arms?

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