The 2021 Georgia US Senate runoffs: because what we all needed was for the 2020 election to go to overtime.
Most people are ready to forget 2020 ever happened after all the world has endured. However, there is one piece of electoral unfinished business we will carry into 2021. Fine, technically two, as there will be a doubleheader of Senate runoffs in the Peach State on January 5, 2021.
Neither US Senate race in Georgia – the regular election for David Perdue or the special election for Kelly Loeffler – was decided in November. Perdue, a Republican incumbent, came far closer but fell just short of the 50 percent-plus-one threshold needed to avoid this runoff. Loeffler, the Republican junior senator, was in a race that was always expected to end this way.
2021 Georgia US Senate Runoff Results
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Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democrats, defeated the two incumbent Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Democratic turnout remained at near-presidential levels in counties they won, while Republican turnout did not keep pace in certain areas. Therefore, both Ossoff and Warnock won Georgia by a larger margin than Joe Biden.
The twin victories give the Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, and with Kamala Harris as vice president, the majority.
As suspected, Warnock/Ossoff and Perdue/Loeffler received almost identical vote totals, with just over 0.4 points in between the candidates.
2021 Georgia US Senate Runoffs: What’s At Stake?
Control of the United States Senate is at stake. As of the most recent Associated Press race calls, Republicans hold 50 seats in the new 117th Senate. Democrats and Democratic-aligned Independents have 48 seats. The two left undecided are two Republican Senate seats from Georgia. David Perdue’s term expired on January 3, while Kelly Loeffler’s term is unexpired as yet and she serves until a replacement is sworn in, so technically, until the runoffs, the Senate is 51 Republican, 48 Democratic.
The Vice President is the presiding officer of the Senate and breaks ties. As of January 20, that will be Kamala Harris, a Democrat. Should the Democrats win both seats, that pulls them into a 50-50 tie with the Republicans, and then Harris will give the Democrats control.
Here’s an interesting footnote should the above occur: if Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both win for the Democrats, and assuming they would be sworn in January 6 (and they won’t), the Republicans would still hold the Senate majority for two weeks. Mike Pence, the outgoing Republican vice president, would break the tie in favor of the GOP. New Congresses are sworn in about two and a half weeks before the president and vice president. When Kamala Harris becomes vice president, she will change the partisan control of the Senate. This would give Joe Biden both houses of Congress for his first two years.
However, if the Republicans win even one seat in Georgia on January 5, they will hit 51 seats and an outright Senate majority. Joe Biden would have to go through Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP to get anything accomplished as his presidency begins. That’s what makes both races so critical, and both slates are running closely-aligned campaigns.
Who’s Running in the Runoffs?
Regular Election (Class II)
David Perdue (R) was first elected to the seat in 2014; he is seeking a second term. He was a businessman prior to running for Senate.
Jon Ossoff (D), a journalist, ran in the Georgia-06 special election in 2017.
Special Election (Class III, Next Up in 2022)
Kelly Loeffler (R) was appointed to this Senate seat in 2020 upon the resignation of Johnny Isakson. Prior to joining the Senate, she was a businesswoman, and she is co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.
Raphael Warnock (D) is the pastor of Atlanta’s renowned Ebenezer Baptist Church. This is his first run for office.
Sizing Up The 2021 Georgia US Senate Runoffs
These are going to be somewhat difficult elections to predict thanks to several factors.
- COVID-19. It did not hamper turnout on any level in the November election, but we have to mention it. You never know what the cruel hand of COVID will do.
- The election is in January. Getting feet into the polling booth (or absentees in the mail) for a November presidential election is one thing. Re-energizing these same people for Senate races just after the holidays is another matter. Turnout is a great unknown.
- Trump’s shadow. Donald Trump has claimed since the election that it was “rigged” and that Joe Biden did not win Georgia, or the presidency. This has led to some in Georgia taking the following tack: “If that election was rigged, why bother voting in this rigged election, too?” If enough Trump-supporting Republicans believe it, they could be suppressing their own turnout.
Will Both Senate Races Have The Same Outcome?
It seems very plausible that this will be the case. Loeffler and Perdue have campaigned together, as have Ossoff and Warnock. Outside attention from national figures have benefitted both candidates on a slate. In a way, they are running mates of one another.
Several million Georgians may vote in this twin-bill of Senate races. There are bound to be some who like one party’s candidate and not another. However, it’s not likely that split tickets will be a major factor unless the races are very close. Our assumption since November has been that one party will win both seats, making this an all-or-nothing proposition for both parties.
One data point which may illustrate this is a recent Emerson Poll of likely voters in which both Senate races had the exact same vote split. Perdue and Loeffler led with 51 percent while Ossoff and Warnock had 48 percent.