Context and Key Players

Why is there a runoff? 

Both Senate seats are in a runoff because in Georgia candidates must earn over 50% of the vote to win. If no one crosses that threshold, the top two go to a runoff election. This 50% rule is a holdover from the Jim Crow era and was designed in the 1960s to “diminish the influence of Black politicians.” 

Why are both Georgia Senate seats up for an election at the same time?

It is very rare that a state would have two Senate elections at the same time, because senators serve for 6 years, and the election cycles are normally staggered. However, Kelly Loeffler’s seat was up for a special election this year, since she was appointed by Governor Brian Kemp in December 2019 to replace Johnny Isakson after he resigned for health reasons, and this happened to coincide with the end of David Perdue’s first term. 

The results of the Nov. 3rd elections

The special election for Loeffler’s seat began with a “jungle primary,” which was Nov. 3rd, in which 20 candidates of all parties competed. Warnock and Loeffler were the top two vote getters, so they will go to a runoff.   Warnock came out in the lead, in part thanks to being the main Democratic contender. He had 32.9%, Loeffler had 25.9% and her Republican  challenger from the right, Doug Collins, had 20%. Several other Democrats split 15.5% of the vote. Other Republicans split 3.4% of the vote, and third parties split 2.3% of the vote. The total of votes for all Republican candidates came out .9% ahead of total Democratic votes. 

Ossoff competed against incumbent David Perdue in a normal election, and their result was 47.9% Ossoff vs. 49.7% Perdue (Perdue ahead by 1.8%), and 2.3% for the Libertarian candidate, sending them to a runoff election. (Source: AP) 

The campaigns up through Nov. 3

In the runup to the Nov. 3rd primary for Loeffler’s seat, Doug Collins, a Trump ally, hit Loeffler hard from the right. Loeffler responded by going to the right herself, claiming she was “more conservative than Atilla the Hun”, and getting the endorsement of Q-anon-believing future congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Loeffler put $20 million of her own funds into the race. 

Perdue vs Ossoff was defined by Perdue “distorting [Ossoff’s] positions” to paint him as a radical, and Ossoff portraying Perdue as beholden to special interests and putting his own finances ahead of Georgian’s health. After Ossoff slammed Perdue for insider trading in their second debate, Perdue cancelled the third scheduled debate before Nov. 3rd and has declined invitations to any further debates before the runoff. 

Joe Biden Wins Georgia

Joe Biden’s narrow win in Georgia, by .2%, was historic. The last Democrat to win Georgia was Bill Clinton in 1992, when he won by .59%, and before that Jimmy Carter in 1980, who was a Georgia native and the former governor. Biden’s win is largely credited to the turnout among black and young people, a movement spearheaded by Stacey Abrams. 

Stacey Abrams and Fair Fight

Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia in 2018 against Brian Kemp, who at the time was Secretary of State and did not recuse himself from overseeing the election. As Secretary of State, he oversaw the purge of 1.4 million voters from the rolls without notice to the voters. Stacey Abrams lost the election by 55,000 votes amid widespread problems at voting locations. She started FairFight after that, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting voter suppression, educating voters, and encouraging election participation.  She is largely credited for the historic turnout that flipped Georgia blue this year in the presidential race, and she is furiously organizing for the Senate runoffs. 

Trump vs. Kemp

Trump has baselessly claimed that he lost Georgia due to voter fraud. He has disparaged both Governor Kemp, a former ally for whom he campaigned, and the Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. Kemp and Raffensperfer have resisted Trump’s pressure and unfounded claims, maintaining reasonably that they have to follow the Georgia law. Loeffler and Perdue called for Raffensperger’s resignation without evidence of wrongdoing in a bid to curry favor with Trump’s base. Raffensperger wrote an Op-Ed rebuking the treatment he has gotten from his own party. Amid this feud, some pro-Trump factions have suggested boycotting the runoff, and it is possible that the continuous claims of fraud will depress Republican turnout.