The upcoming runoff elections in Georgia have the potential to shift control of the U.S. Senate from Republicans in Congress to Democrats early next year. However, the historic voting patterns of the Southern state suggest that the necessary double victory of the Democrats, who challenge the incumbent senators of Georgia, Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, is unlikely.
Since the early 2000s, Georgia has consistently filled its two Senate seats with Republican representatives, and since the election of Democratic Bill Clinton in 1992, Georgia has voted for Republican presidential candidates in a similar fashion. This year, the state seems to have preferred former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donal-albeit by a very narrow margin, suggesting growing support for the Democrats in the Georgian electorate. The state will conduct a recount at the request of the Republicans, but the result is unlikely to change.
A Biden presidency would be very helpful due to the democratic control of the Senate, which depends on the results of the state’s two runoff elections in January. However, an examination of the Georgian runoff elections of the last decades suggests that the victories of the democratic candidates Jon Ossoff (who challenged Perdue) and Raphael Warnock (Loeffler’s rival) may not be successful.
In the runoff vote after the 1992 Clinton election, then Georgian Senator Wyche Fowler, a Democrat, lost to Republican opponent Paul Coverdell after he initially received more votes than his rival. In 2008, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss defended his seat in a runoff election against Democratic candidate Jim Martin. In 1992 and 2006, Democratic candidates fighting for a seat on the Georgian Civil Service Commission received more votes in the first elections than their Republican counterparts, but eventually lost in the following runoffs. In 2018, the current Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, took office after winning a runoff election against Democrat John Barrrow.
Some critics have argued that the Georgian run-off system manipulates the state’s electoral process. Unsuccessful lawsuits by the Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union aimed to overturn it, as the runoff elections disproportionately favored white candidates.
In Georgia, runoff elections occur when neither of the two political candidates receives a majority of votes in previous elections, as was the case between the Republican incumbent Perdue and his challenger Ossoff. Loeffler will run against Warnock after she was appointed to the Senate early this year after Johnny Isakson resigned.
Polls conducted in recent weeks show that Perdue and Ossoff are neck and neck among Georgia’s voters. Speaking to supporters of the January runoff election on Friday, Ossoff condemned the Republican incumbent’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act, particularly in light of the ongoing public health impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments questioning the constitutionality of the law.
“Look, what we demand, what we deserve from our leaders, what we deserve from our government, it’s not all that complicated. It is not mysterious,” Ossoff said on Friday. “We believe that every single family in Georgia should have access to affordable housing, affordable health care, education without debt, decent work that pays a living wage, equal justice under the law, regardless of race and class.
Throughout the country, a large number of Republican senators defended their seats this year, twice as many as the Democrats, whose seats were similarly up for election. The Democrats hoped to remove the three or four Republican legislators in order to win the majority, but fell short of expectations, so the runoff election in Georgia was crucial.
With Biden and Kamala Harris expected to take office as president and vice president on January 20, the Democrats must secure two more seats in the Senate to control the Senate, with Harris acting as a tie-breaker. Currently, the Democrats hold 48 seats in the Senate, and Republicans are expected to hold 50 seats once the final vote count is completed in Alaska and North Carolina.
Washington Newsday contacted the Perdue office and