When Republican Kelly Loeffler was appointed to fill a Georgia U.S. Senate seat 11 months ago, she knew she’d have to win with the voters this year. She couldn’t have known at the time that she’d be facing five other Republicans, eight Democrats and six smaller party or no party candidates in this winner-take-all special election.
The odds of anyone in a 20-candidate race winning at least 50% of the vote is quite small. The fact that a high-profile congressman, the pastor of one of the best-known Black churches in America, the son of a former U.S. senator and several other prominent Georgians are also in the race makes those odds even longer.
So it’s a safe bet that Georgia voters will be going back to the polls for a runoff between the two candidates who get the most votes. That runoff is already on the Georgia election calendar for Jan. 5 -- three days after the rest of the new Congress is sworn in.
And there could be more than one race on that ballot.
Georgia’s other senator, Republican David Perdue, is running for a second six-year term this year. While it’s no wild free-for-all the other race, Democrat Jon Ossoff is running a stronger campaign than few expected months ago and Libertarian Shane Hazel will also take a slice of the vote. Multiple polls show neither Perdue nor Ossoff will reach 50% of the vote.
So after Tuesday’s votes are counted next week, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats -- and perhaps whether the Republicans or Democrats will control the Senate -- may remain in play for another two months.
Loeffler, the owner of Atlanta’s WNBA team, was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Brian Kemp last December with the hope that she would help the GOP hold on to moderates -- especially suburban women -- uncomfortable with the party’s right turn under President Donald Trump. Instead, the wealthy businesswoman has followed Trump’s lead and then some.
Part of her move to the right might be strategic to counter one of her opponents, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins from Georgia’s 9th District -- a very conservative member of Georgia’s congressional delegation who often draws praise from Trump.
There are also two frontrunners on the Democratic side: Dr. Raphael Warnock and Matt Lieberman.
If the Lieberman name is familiar, it’s because he the son of former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who was the running mate of Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign.
Warnock is the fifth pastor in the 134-years history of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church -- the same church the late Martin Luther King Jr. pastored. He is also the former chairman of the nonpartisan voter registration group, the New Georgia Project, originally founded by Stacey Abrams.
Record campaign spending in both races
Warnock brought in $12.9 million in donations in the last three months, more than quadrupling the total he raised the previous quarter. His fundraising has dwarfed that of the rest of the Democratic field.
Loeffler raised about $2.2 million in the last three months and personally loaned her campaign another $5 million. She has previously loaned her campaign $15 million of her own vast personal wealth, bringing the total self-loan to $20 million.
Collins raised about $2.3 million in the last quarter.
In the other race, challenger Ossoff raised $21.3 million during the period, receiving over 600,000 contributions averaging $35.
Perdue raised about $5.6 million in the same three months.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.