A supporter looks on as Georgia Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate John Ossoff bumps elbows with others as he tries to rally support for a run-off against Republican candidate Sen. David Perdue, as they meet in Grant Park, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /John Amis

A supporter looks on as Georgia Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate John Ossoff bumps elbows with others as he tries to rally support for a run-off against Republican candidate Sen. David Perdue, as they meet in Grant Park, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /John Amis

Georgia’s Senate runoffs, Trump’s intransigence keep U.S. political suspense going

The presidential race generated record turnout across the country

There’s good news in Georgia for anyone still craving high-stakes U.S. election suspense following Joe Biden’s presidential win.

Control of the Senate remains up for grabs: Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will both face run-off elections Jan. 5 against Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

“Everyone else has hung up their cleats, but we’re still playing,” said Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Runoffs occur in certain states when candidates fail to reach a prescribed vote threshold — 50 per cent in Georgia.

A run-off was expected in the case of Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat last year to fill a vacancy and was challenged in the special election by fellow Republican Doug Collins, dividing the vote.

At last count, Perdue had a lead of more than 100,000 votes over Ossoff with almost all the votes counted, but remained just below the 50 per cent bar required for outright victory.

The GOP appears poised to claim Alaska and North Carolina, the two other states with Senate seats still up in the air, but would remain one shy of the 51 needed for control of the Senate and the ability to severely hamstring the Biden administration.

A 50-50 draw would effectively hand control to the Democrats, since it will fall to vice-president-elect Kamala Harris to break any ties once she and Biden take office.

The outcome in the Senate, and indeed the composition of Capitol Hill more broadly, is an issue of great interest to Canada’s diplomatic corps in Washington, since members of Congress are a vital vector for advancing Canadian interests.

But the election hasn’t caused the embassy to break stride, said Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador.

“We are continuing to work on files with the U.S. government all the time,” Hillman said in an interview.

“Even last week, while everybody was focused on how the election was turning out both in the White House and in Congress, we were doing business.”

VIDEO: Justin Trudeau first leader to talk to U.S. president-elect Joe Biden

While the odds and history would appear to favour the Republicans in Georgia, long a reliably conservative state, 2020 has already thrown its share of curveballs.

In a presidential race that generated record turnout across the country, Biden narrowly carried Georgia, becoming only the third Democrat after Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to do so in the last half-century.

Having not one but two high-profile races still ongoing in the state could juice turnout in January, a rarity for runoffs. So too could the fact Warnock is vying to become the first Black Democrat to be elected to the Senate from the Deep South.

“In the past, what has happened has been that dropout among African Americans has been greater than among whites, so his presence there may work to the advantage of Democrats,” Bullock said.

Loeffler, who has the backing of prominent Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, may also face bad blood among Georgia Republicans after her bruising battle with Collins, he added.

“She’s got to try to reunite the Republican party,” Bullock said. “Sure, Doug has endorsed her, but it may be hard for some of his supporters to forgive her for the kinds of attacks that she launched against Doug.”

Biden played down the drama Tuesday, insisting that while a Democratic majority in the Senate would be helpful, it’s by no means a deal-breaker.

I am not a pessimist, as you know,” he said. “I think we can get a lot done.”

On Monday, the family feud in Georgia became even more intriguing when Loeffler and Perdue called for the resignation of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, accusing him of somehow botching the electoral process.

“That is not going to happen,” Raffensperger shot back in a statement. “The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the ones to fire me.”

The election in the state was a “resounding success,” he added, with minimal wait times despite record turnout and an unimpeachable counting and reporting process, Any illegal voting will be investigated, he promised, but it’s “unlikely” it affected the outcome.

“My job is to follow Georgia law and see to it that all legal votes, and no illegal votes, are counted properly and accurately,” he said.

“As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Sens. Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”

Regardless of the outcome in January, it’s a safe bet Congress will pose a challenge to the Biden administration, despite the former senator’s relationship with Republican leader McConnell, Bullock said.

“It’s going to be frustrating for the progressives that the strides they would like to see taken on the environment or whatever else simply aren’t going to happen,” he said.

“There’s talk that it may boil down to negotiation between the president and Mitch McConnell … but again, that would also be the case if there were 51 Democrats.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Donald TrumpJoe BidenUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A convoy of seven pickup trucks, six of which were hauling boats, makes its way around the Chilliwack Law Courts on Dec. 1, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
First court date for Fraser River anglers ticketed during demonstration fishery

Convoy of trucks circled the courthouse in downtown Chilliwack Tuesday honking their support

A full moon sinks behind the mountains as the sun rises on the first day of December in Chilliwack on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Chilliwack in for nearly a week of sunshine

Forecast calls for sun most of the week, temperatures reaching high of 10 C Friday

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

A family emerged with a purchase at the Tannenbaum Tree Farm at 5398 252 St in Aldergrove on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Christmas tree season is off to an early start

People are ‘bored’ with staying home due to COVID-19 and want to decorate early, farm owner believes

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A heavy police presence was on scene on Dec. 28, 2017 following the shooting death on Bates Road in Abbotsford of Alexander Blanarou, 24, of Surrey. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Three men charged with Abbotsford shooting death of Surrey man

Alexander Blanarou, 24, was killed in a rural area on Dec. 28, 2017

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

Most Read