Georgia Senate candidates make final push in high-stakes runoff

Polls opening Tuesday at 7 a.m.

ATLANTA – Polls will open Tuesday for a rare Georgia runoff election because no candidate for either Senate seat had 50% of the vote in November.

It’s the state’s most expensive and watched Senate race in history.

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face-off with the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. David Perdue faces Democratic filmmaker Jon Ossoff.

The two seats will determine whether Republicans or Democrats have the majority on Capitol Hill. The candidates have spent a combined $500,000,000 on the race.

On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence was in Macon, campaigning for incumbents Loeffler and Perdue.

“I want to assure you. I share the concerns about voting irregularities. I promise you come Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress. We’ll hear the objections, we’ll hear the evidence. But tomorrow is Georgia’s day!” Pence told a crowd.

Perdue, who is seeking a second term as senator, addressed the church crowd by telephone while quarantining over coronavirus exposure, warning that “the very future of our republic is on the line” and declaring the duty to vote “a calling from God.”

Loeffler told a crowd, “My sole focus is on getting Georgians out to vote on January 5th because we are the firewall to stopping socialism. We have to hold the line here in Georgia.”

Both Democratic candidates took the stage in Savannah on Sunday for a drive-in rally. Warnock and Ossoff both received support from Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“It all comes down to Tuesday. Election Day. The last chance to make our voices heard as Georgians!” Ossoff said at a rally.

I am feeling very encouraged by what’s happening here on the ground in Georgia,” Warnock said while campaigning. “We’ve had over 3 million people vote already during the early period, and it is because they understand how much is at stake.

President-elect Joe Biden appeared at the drive-in event.

“You voted in record numbers in November. Your voices were heard. Your voices were counted. The will of the people prevailed,” he told the crowd.

Republicans need just one victory between Perdue and Loeffler to maintain Senate control. Democrats need a sweep for a 50-50 split, giving the tiebreaking vote to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will succeed Pence as the Senate’s presiding officer. That would give Democrats a Senate majority to go along with their control of the House and executive branch.

Meantime, President Donald Trump and his allies continue to contest the results of the presidential race in November. A recorded phone call with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, has sparked debate from both Republicans and Democrats.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump is heard saying.

News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney was asked about the timing and the consequences of the president’s call. Mullaney said it’s viewed through a partisan lens.

“What the president is basically saying, his belief, contrary to what the data shows, is that he won Georgia, and [that] he did it substantially,” Mullaney said. “And he’s asking the secretary to agree with him to investigate.”

Mullaney went on to say that he does not believe the phone call will affect the outcome in Georgia. He said most people have already decided if and how they are going to vote.

“If you’re a Democrat, you look at this call and you view it as pressure. You view it as abuse of power. You think there’s something wrong. If you’re a Republican, you say this is a this is a routine phone call and there’s nothing wrong with it,” Mullaney said.

Monday afternoon, Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s election administrator, pushed back against what he called the president’s “misinformation.”

“This is all easily, provably, false. Yet the president persists,” Sterling said. “And by doing so undermines Georgians’ faith in the election system.”

Trump, at a rally in Dalton, Georgia, again pressed claims that the November election was “rigged” and urged Republicans to “swamp” the polls Tuesday.

“The Democrats are trying to steal the White House, you cannot let them,” Trump said. “You just can’t let them steal the U.S. Senate, you can’t let it happen.”

More than 3 million Georgians already have voted. Monday’s push focused on getting voters to the polls Tuesday. Democrats ran up a wide margin among 3.6 million early votes in the fall, but Republicans countered with an Election Day surge, especially in small towns and rural areas.

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