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Georgia races will decide who controls the Senate

by Government Affairs Team | Dec 17, 2020

Updated 1/11/2021: Georgia Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated incumbent GOP Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively. Both Loeffler and Perdue conceded to their Democratic opponents late last week. With the Senate victories, the chamber is now split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, giving the Democrats control of the Senate.

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This week, early voting kicked off in Georgia.  Both incumbent Senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – are on the ballot in a runoff election scheduled for January 5.   

The reason both Senators are running at the same time is unique to Georgia election law:  Senator Perdue is running for re-election to another 6 year term.  Senator Loeffler is on the ballot because she was appointed to her Senate seat in January 2020, when then-Senator Johnny Isakson retired.  Perdue received a plurality of the vote on Election Night, finishing ahead of Democrat Jon Ossoff.   That was insufficient, however, for Georgia, which requires the winner to receive a majority of the votes.  That forced Perdue and Ossoff, the two top vote-getters, to go to a runoff.    Loeffler on the other hand is running to serve the remainder of Isakson’s term, which will end January 3, 2023.   Similar to Senator Perdue, neither Senator Loeffler nor her Democratic opponent, Raphael Warnock, received a majority of the votes on Election Day.  As a result they also face a runoff. 

These two races have big significance to both the Senate and the incoming Biden Administration.  Republicans currently control the Senate 50-48.  If the Democrats win both seats, it becomes a 50-50 Senate.  With Vice President Harris serving as the President of the Senate, Democrats would gain control of the body, including its committees.  That would enable Democrats to move legislation favorable to the Biden Administration as well as give them a greater chance of confirming any appointments the new President would make.  If they come up short, by one or both seats, Republicans retain control of the Senate. 

President-elect Biden may play a role here.  He did win the State of Georgia but with 49.5% of the vote compared to 49.3% for President Trump.  That’s a difference of less than a quarter of a point.  So it’s unclear whether his support will help Ossoff and Warnock.  But Biden is set to campaign in Georgia in the next few days.

Meanwhile the Senate awaits the final results of the runoffs.  Incoming Senators will be sworn in at noon on January 3.   With the results not know until the 5th, or later, we don’t expect the Senate to be organized, with all committee chairs known and Democrat and Republican committee members decided.  However, GCSAA will continue to lobby Senators from both parties on issues important to golf course management.