An unprecedented two runoff elections will be taking place in Georgia on January 5 to determine who will hold the state’s Senate seats for the next term. A single runoff election is not particularly uncommon, but due to the resignation of Senator Johnny Isakson, Georgia will be electing both of its senators this year; elections whose results will have a major impact. As of now, the Republican Party holds 50 senate seats to the Democratic Party’s 48. Should the Democrats win the seats, their party would gain control of the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote. Retaking the Senate would be vital to Presdient Biden’s hopes of progressing the Democratic agenda this term.
Who are the candidates in the Georgia runoff? The two incumbent Republican senators are David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Their Democratic challengers are Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively. Below is a summary of each candidate’s key running issues, as well as what their election may mean for American Jews and the State of Israel.
A Republican, he won election to the US Senate in 2014. Perdue supports tax cuts for families and small businesses. During the pandemic, Purdue boasts that he has helped secure billions in relief for small businesses and employees through the Paycheck Protection Program. He believes that to keep the US secure, some criminal justice and police reform is needed, but he opposes the movement to defund the police. Purdue does not support Obamacare, and he supported US withdrawal from the Paris Climate accord in 2017. Perdue has a strong history of supporting Israel. He co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which if passed would make it a federal crime to participate in boycotts against Israel. He also supported the US embassies move to Jerusalem.
A Jewish Democrat, Ossoff only narrowly lost the election in Georgia’s sixth Congressional district in 2017, notable because the district is reliably Republican. During that election, Jewish women were very loyal to him, with many campaigning in his support. Ossoff is a supporter of reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood. He advocates for Medicare, and hopes to ensure that all Americans have affordable public health care. In regards to infrastructure, Ossoff supports programs that ensure “overdue investments in transportation and transit, clean energy, energy efficiency, public health, communications, research and development, emergency response, and environmental cleanup.” While it has never been a key running issue for him, Ossoff is a supporter of JStreet, a liberal pro-Israel organization. He has stated that he is pro-Israel, and maintains that if elected he will continue to support American aid to the Jewish State. Osoff’s Jewish identity came into the spotlight a few months ago when it came to light that a Perdue advertisement had enlarged his nose, an anti-Semitic trope, to highlight his Jewishness.
A Republican, Loeffler is a big advocate for the agricultural segment of the economy. She strongly supports farmers and ranchers and is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Loeffler is a staunch ally of President Trump. During her campaign, she has mentioned her 100% voting record for policies supported by the president, the only senator to hold such a record. Loeffler supports immigration reform, stating that the immigration system “has been broken and our law enforcement officers have been left vulnerable to loopholes that risk our nation’s sovereignty.” Loeffler has recently received backlash because of her endorsement by Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Greene, who is associated with the conspiracy group QAnon, a group known to include anti-Semitic tropes.
A Democrat, Warnock is a big advocate of public healthcare. He was a leader in the campaign to expand Medicare coverage within the Affordable Care Act. Warnock champions enriched pre-K programs for all children, and lower expenses for higher education, including student loan forgiveness programs. In regards to the climate issue, Warnock says that if elected he will support rejoining the Paris Climate Accords. A pastor since 2005, Warnock has come under scrutiny for some statements he has made in his sermons pertaining to the State of Israel. In a 2018 sermon, Warnock attacked Israel for killing “unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey.” He has likened militarization in the West Bank to apartheid South Africa, and he signed a document that charged Israel with utlizaing “patterns that seem to have been borrowed …from other previous oppressive regimes.” In what seems like a change of pace, Warnock recently published an op-ed with the title “I Stand With Israel” which maintains that he does support Israel, is opposed to the BDS movement, and he is committed to fighting anti-Semitism.
Which political party will have a majority in the Senate this term will be decided by the outcome of the Georgia runoffs. That said, even if both Democratic Georgian candidates defeat the Republicans, the Democratic agenda will still face obstacles. Individual senators can invoke filibusters, which require 60 Senate votes to cut off debate on most measures and allow a vote. Additionally, given that the Democratic Senate seats are held by individuals from a wide range of the ideological spectrum, it is likely that nearly all legislation will still require bipartisan support to pass regardless of the outcome of the runoff elections.