Millions being spent in Georgia runoffs that could determine control of the Senate

Rev. Raphael Warnock (L) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., (R).
Rev. Raphael Warnock (L) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., (R). | Raphael Warnock; Facebook/Kelly Loeffler

Activist groups on both sides of the political aisle are pouring millions of dollars into two U.S. Senate runoff elections that will determine the balance of power in the upper house of Congress.

According to Decision Desk HQ, as of Wednesday afternoon, Republicans have secured 50 seats in the Senate while Democrats have won 46 along with two independents who caucus with the Democrats. 

Control of the Senate will come down to two undecided races in the state of Georgia, both of which are heading to runoff elections. 

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Georgia had two Senate seats on the ballot this year. The first is the Senate seat held by Republican incumbent David Perdue, which is regularly scheduled to be up for re-election in 2020. The second race is a special election to fill the Senate seat formerly held by Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down due to health issues last year.

As no candidate received 50% of the vote in either election, both races will be heading to a runoff on Jan. 5, two days after the 117th Congress is set to begin.

Perdue will face off against Democrat Jon Ossoff in his runoff while Sen. Kelly Loeffler, appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill Isakson’s seat until the election, will face Democrat Pastor Raphael Warnock.

The winner of that race will serve the remainder of Isakson’s term, which expires in 2022, before having to run again for a full six-year term.

The hotly contested races reflect the tightness of the presidential race in Georgia. Currently, President Donald Trump trails former Vice President Joe Biden by less than 0.3 percentage points in Georgia's presidential election. A hand recount is expected in the coming days, given the close margin.

Perdue fell just short of the magic number of 50% in the Nov. 3 election. No candidate had a reasonable chance at reaching that threshold in the special election because multiple candidates from the two major political parties ran in the race. As the top two finishers advanced to the runoff, Loeffler edged out fellow Republican Doug Collins, who serves as the representative of Georgia's 9th congressional district.

Should Democrats prevail in both runoffs, each party will have 50 seats in the Senate. In that case, the outcome of the presidential election will determine which party has control of the Senate because part of the vice president's responsibility is to break ties in the Senate. 

If Biden wins the presidential election, as many media outlets have projected, Biden’s running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris would serve as vice president and cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. This result would essentially give Democrats control of the White House and both houses of Congress.  

If Trump manages to win the election following recounts, Vice President Mike Pence would still be responsible for casting the tie-breaking vote. 

If Republicans win one or both runoffs, the party will maintain control of the Senate regardless of the presidential election results.

Because the Georgia Senate races could have a profound impact on the direction of the country over the next two years, interest groups on both sides of the aisle are spending millions of dollars to ensure that their favored candidates win.

The Women Speak Out PAC, a partner of the pro-life grassroots organization Susan B. Anthony List, announced a $4 million effort on behalf of Sens. Loeffler and Perdue.

“We are going all-in for pro-life champions Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue,” said Mallory Quigley, the vice president of communications for SBA List, in a statement.

“Without a pro-life Republican majority in the Senate, there would be no check on the pro-abortion Biden-Harris administration, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the radical pro-abortion lobby bent on ditching the filibuster and packing the Court."

Republican control of the Senate could also help prevent the passage of the Equality Act, a bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House that would amend federal civil rights law to include discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Social conservatives fear such a law could erode religious liberty. 

On the other side of the aisle, Fair Fight Action, a liberal group founded by unsuccessful Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, has invested heavily in electing Ossoff and Warnock.

A spokesman for Fair Fight Action announced that Abrams had raised $3.6 million for the Democratic candidates over the course of two days. Abrams discussed what was at stake in the two runoff elections during an appearance on CNN’s "State of the Union" Sunday.

“This is going to be the determining factor of whether we have access to health care and access to justice in the United States,” she said. “Those are two issues that will make certain people turn out. We know this is going to be a hard fight, it’s going to be a competitive fight.”

Should Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate and Biden win the presidency, the former vice president would become the first president since George H.W. Bush whose party does not have complete control of Congress upon taking office.

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