When Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock qualified for the second round of the US Senate on January 5, they were faced with the immediate challenge of winning over the two million voters who chose one of the other 18 candidates for the November elections.
Polls show they were largely successful, which could give the incumbent Loeffler a little edge.
Republican representative of the United States, Doug Collins, came third in the November vote, which ended with 48,000 votes more than the Democratic candidates.
In the second round of elections in Georgia, Republican US Senator David Perdue started off with an even larger lead, winning 88,000 more votes in November than Democrat Jon Ossoff. As he failed to secure a majority, however, Perdue was forced into a run-off. The turnout could be the deciding factor.
As of Wednesday, nearly 2.1 million voters had voted, roughly at the pace of the November 3 general election. It is unclear how the Christmas holidays will affect the pace of the ballot. Advance in-person voting runs until December 31 in some counties.
One thing that helps voters line up J Miles Coleman of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia said the decision by candidates for both races to run as tickets, with joint appearances and advertisements, is one thing that helps voters line up. ‘joint effort had helped Warnock win over Democratic voters.
“He and Ossoff did a better job as a ticket,” Coleman said. “I think overall this will benefit Warnock and help him solidify some of his support.”
With candidates posing as tickets, parties are unlikely to share seats. Two wins would give Democrats control of the US Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 draw. A split or two GOP wins would keep Republicans in control.
Deborah Jackson, former mayor of the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia, came fourth in November, the Democratic vice president behind Warnock. She benefited from being a black woman, an amount known in the Democratic stronghold of DeKalb County and the first Democrat on a ballot so long that Warnock had to remind her supporters to come down to the end for find his name.
“I had a tangible and practical experience,” Jackson said. “I think some people were interested in it.”
She said some people were offended that the ruling state and National Democrats tried to clear the ground for Warnock, but said she still fully supported him.
“Democrats have to control the Senate, or at least there has to be a balance,” Jackson said.
At least one of Jackson’s supporters agrees. Laura Durojaiye of Stonecrest said she had previously voted for Warnock.
“I think he will get all of his votes,” Durojaiye said, saying she believes Warnock is someone who will learn in the Senate and support his priorities in tackling climate change and social inequality.
Shane Hazel, the libertarian who won the key vote bracket that forced Perdue and Ossoff to a second round, said his voters could sit in the second round, telling Hazel “they will never vote for anyone again by fear”.
One of the state’s first early voting counties is Rabun – in northeast Georgia – where President Donald Trump and Perdue both won 78% of the vote.
“I have no doubts that the Democrats could lead Mother Teresa and get 20%,” said Ed Henderson, Republican Party secretary for Rabun County.
As in other counties in his congressional district in northeast Georgia, Collins was the first to win the vote in the Senate special election. “It was Collins country,” Henderson said.
Collins, however, has been a staunch supporter of Loeffler and Perdue.
Although nearly 40% of Rabun’s registered voters have already voted, Henderson said he feared Trump’s relentless attacks on the integrity of Georgia’s presidential election could hurt Republican turnout there, citing the “divine reverence” that the inhabitants have for the president.
“My biggest problem this electoral cycle is that there is a distrust of the system,” said Henderson, claiming that a handful of die-hard Republicans told him they were going to pass the election, claiming that they believed Trump had been deceived, despite little credible evidence of wrongdoing.
Henderson is also concerned that Loeffler has never been to his county so far from Atlanta that many watch television outside of the state.
“It would be very helpful if they came here in person and told our constituents that they would like to have our vote,” Henderson said of the Republican candidates.
Democrats have their own problems. Early voting lags behind in small urban areas of Georgia, including Savannah, Augusta, Macon and Columbus, and Democratic vote totals have been disappointing in rural areas.
“Democrats have really struggled to eliminate black voters in rural parts of the state,” Coleman said. “Are Democrats going to be able to do well enough in rural parts of the state?”