The U.S. Senate currently has 50 Republican Senators and 48 Democrats. The remaining two seats will be decided by two runoff elections in the state of Georgia, which are scheduled for Jan. 5. This election will be hotly contested, as a Democratic sweep would provide them with control of the Senate – Vice President Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking 51st vote.
The runoff was triggered when no candidate in either election earned 50 percent of the vote on Election Day. In the first election, the incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler will face off against Democrat Raphael Warnock. In the other, incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue will face off against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
The race has gained national attention, with record amounts of fundraising pouring in to support the candidates. Should both Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff win the elections, the Democrats will control the executive branch as well as both chambers of the legislative branch. This fact has been used as a rallying cry by the GOP, arguing that there would be no checks on the Democrats’ ability to enact policy.
The Associated Press estimated Perdue received 49.7 percent of the vote in the original election, with Ossoff receiving 47.9 percent. Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel received 2.3 percent of the vote. In the other election, Warnock received 32.9 percent of the vote, while Loeffler received 25.9 percent. This election was much more segmented, with at least 20 different candidates receiving a substantial number of votes.
The political party that controls the senate holds significant power in approving presidential appointments and drafting legislation. Should the Democrats gain both seats, they have the ability to approve cabinet members, budgets and judges. Given the stakes, it is expected that national leaders from each party will campaign on behalf of their respective candidates, and an ongoing ad blitz will continue until the election.
President-Elect Biden has campaigned on an agenda that includes a plan to combat the COVID -19 threat, to implement an economic recovery plan, enact significant climate legislation and add a public health insurance option to the Obamacare program. Each of these items requires cooperation from the legislative branch, and the Biden administration’s ability to implement their vision of each of these plans would very likely be compromised if the GOP maintains their control of the Senate. According to former President Barack Obama, “the balance of power in the Senate is at stake in Georgia’s runoff election.”
Georgia has voted for a Republican president in every election since 1992, when its electoral votes were awarded to Bill Clinton. The Democrats have newfound optimism about the senate races, however, as President-elect Biden managed to win Georgia this year despite Trump having won it by over 5 percent in 2016.