The presidential election last month did, despite endless and baseless claims otherwise from Trump’s camp, delivered a result, with Joe Biden clearly winning the presidency by a margin of 74 electoral college votes.
However, the two Georgia senate seats up for election are a different story – as no candidate won more than 50 per cent of the vote, there will be a second "runoff" election on 5 January between the two candidates with the most votes.
One race is between incumbent Republican Dave Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossof, while the other sees Republican Kelly Loeffler – who was appointed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in January 2020 after the resignation of Johnny Isakson – facing off against Democrat Raphael Warnock.
Both races are crucially important to both parties. If the Democrats win both seats, that would push them into a 50-50 tie with the Republican party, but as per congressional rules, the vice president can break a tie, meaning Democrats would essentially control the senate. If Republicans win even one seat, they will retain control of the senate, which will make it much harder for a Biden administration to pass legislation, at least for the first two years.
As such, the race is being very closely followed across the country, and debates between the two sets of candidates have made for riveting watching.
First, there was the curious case of the invisible Republican – Senator Perdue decided not to take part in the debate, leaving his contender Jon Ossof to debate against an empty podium.
But it was the Loeffler vs Warnock moment that people were here for.
Loeffler, a former CEO of financial service provider Bakkt, is a controversial figure, best known for strongly aligning herself with Trump during her campaign.
During last night’s debate, she didn’t disappoint her supporters, ranting about everything from socialism to voter fraud.
Here are some of the key moments from her face-off against Warnock.
1. When asked whether she believed the election was rigged, Loeffer responded by pushing Trump’s theory that the election was fraudulent, and pivoting to criticising “socialism”, saying:
“It’s very clear that there were issues in this election […] We have to make sure that Georgians trust this process because of what’s at stake at this election. The promise that Chuck Schumer made was to fundamentally change America, and I’m making sure we don’t go down the road of socialism”.
2. When asked by Warnock about allegations of insider trading, Loeffler went on yet another tangent about socialism, responding:
“In your writings and your teachings, you’ve repeatedly praised socialism and the redistribution of income. Can you here and now for all Georgians renounce socialism and Marxism?”
For what it’s worth, it didn’t really go to plan, as Warnock easily responded by highlighting his commitment to supporting people most affected by economic downturns.3. When she was asked point-blank whether Trump won the election, Loeffler dodged Warnock’s question, saying: “You know, President Trump has every right to use every legal recourse available.” She then continued to repeat unfounded claims of voter fraud in the state.
4. Apparently, Loeffler didn’t think she’d pushed the “socialist” narrative enough, and went on to call her opponent “radical liberal Raphael Warnock”. He did indeed rise to political prominence thanks to his activism around affordable healthcare. Apparently thinking poor people should be able to see doctors too is “radical” in Loeffler’s mind. Good to know.
5. Loeffler highlighted her view yet again in a ramble about how she wanted to avoid “government-mandated healthcare" for which has been compared to “an SNL parody of a politician with negative charisma”.
Kelly Loeffler is like an SNL parody of a politician with negative charisma. It's awkward to watch. https://t.co/se7mDuezl4
6. Once again, we learn that “radical liberal Raphael Warnock" lives rent-free in Loeffer’s mind. This time the moniker is used in relation to a strange rant about “abortion on demand” and “taxing guns”. Warnock is apparently the Democrats’ “agent of change”. Perhaps this could be his new slogan?
7. Loeffler’s previous comments about the Black Lives Matter movement also came back to haunt her. In July, she publicly objected to a BLM tie-in with the women’s national basketball association (WNBA), based on her co-ownership of the team Atlanta Dream. In a letter to the league’s commissioner at the time, she wrote:
“I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement […] I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.”
The union for WNBA players at the time condemned her statement, saying she was not involved in the day-to-day business of Atlanta Dream, and tweeting:
First, she was asked by panelist Lisa Rayam of WABE Radio whether she stands by her previous description of BLM as “fascist”. Her response was to claim that “the life of every African American is important, and there is no place for racism in this country”. Unfortunately, she followed it up with a “but” and saying she would always “stand without men and women of law enforcement”.
When challenged by Warnock, who pointed out that Loeffler’s response to a civil rights movement was to “pick a fight with the Black women on her [WNBA] team," Loeffler replies that “there is not a racist bone in my body”. Suffice to say, it didn’t go down well.
2/ That's not the question that you asked them. You didn't inquire about the status of their bones or their time/s… https://t.co/7w71S7Kkk1
8. The last question posed to Loeffler alluded to accusations that both she and absent Republican Senator for Georgia, Dave Perdue used inside knowledge as members of Congress to profit on the stock market. The question was pretty simple: “Should members of Congress be barred from trading stocks?”
In case you were wondering, she of course didn’t answer. Instead she repeated yet again that a lot is at stake in this election, this time claiming that the entire concept of the “American dream” hangs in the balance. Bizarrely, she literally claims that when she is “attacked” (in other words, asked a perfectly acceptable question in response to allegations she faces), it is an attack on “every single Georgian who gets up to go to work every day”. A bold claim.
Many pointed out that Loeffler’s refusal to acknowledge Biden’s win didn’t really work alongside her consistent message that this election is crucial. After all, if she believed Trump had won it would give the Republicans an automatic majority, with 50 seats plus the vice president’s vote. It is because of Biden’s win that the run-off has become so important to the make-up of government and its ability – or lack thereof – to achieve its objectives.
Overall, the Republicans did not do well out of the debate, with one no-show and the remaining candidate making outlandish claims while failing to answer the actual questions she was asked.
Biden won Georgia by a small margin in the presidential election, but it’s still seen as a huge win for Democrats, given the state has historically been a Republican stronghold.
This has in large part been credited to Stacey Abrams, whose tireless activism saw around 800,000 new voters register in Georgia. It’s no stretch to think that these efforts could lead to a Democrat-led Senate too.