By Mark Anderson
Perhaps the most-watched U.S. Senate races in recent American history are transpiring in Georgia, where two runoff elections will take place Jan. 5 that pit incumbent Republicans against Democratic challengers. The results will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2021. Sen. David Perdue (R) is being challenged by Jon Ossoff (D), and Raphael Warnock (D) is challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The runoff was triggered by the failure of any candidate to draw over 50% of votes on Election Day, per Georgia elections law.
Incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R) was born in Macon, Ga. The senior U.S. senator for Georgia since 2015, Perdue, 70, is a longtime businessman educated at Georgia Tech and was previously a member of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Ports Authority. Considered a shrewd businessman, but not altogether ethical by some accounts, Perdue has been senior vice president for Reebok, CEO of Pillowtex (a N.C. textile company), and CEO of Dollar General. In 2003, Perdue left Pillowtex with $1.7 million in compensation after just nine months on the job. When Pillowtex closed several months later, 7,650 employees lost their jobs nationally, with 4,000 jobs lost in North Carolina, which the Charlotte Observer reported was the largest single-day job loss in the state’s history.
Perdue’s noteworthy legislative history includes his March 2017 co-sponsorship of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, an anti-free speech measure that would have made it a federal crime for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel. Also in 2017, Perdue partnered with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to cosponsor the RAISE Act, which would have cut legal immigration to the U.S. by 50% over 10 years, and, among other things, favor skilled immigrants by creating a points-based system. In June 2019, Perdue supported Trump’s tariffs on Mexico unless Mexico assisted in curtailing illegal immigration into the U.S., commenting, “We’re being invaded right now.”
Challenger Thomas Jonathan “Jon” Ossoff (D), 33, nearly won a U.S. House seat prior to challenging Perdue as the Democratic nominee in the 2017 special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district, long considered to be firmly Republican. After finishing first, but without a majority in the all-parties primary election, he barely lost the runoff race to Karen Handel (R).
Of the four current Georgia candidates for U.S. Senate, Ossoff, who was raised Jewish, has by far the most globalist resume. Born in Atlanta, Ossoff attended the Paideia School, a private PK-12 academy in the elite Druid Hills neighborhood of Atlanta, and interned for Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis while in high school. In 2009, he earned a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University—a noted Jesuit school with a history of cranking out “one-world” advocates—where he attended classes taught by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. Ossoff also earned a Master’s degree from the world government-promoting London School of Economics in 2013.
Since then, he has been the CEO and managing director of Insight TWI, “a London-based investigative television production company that works with reporters to create documentaries about corruption in foreign countries,” according to Wikipedia. He served as a national security staffer and aide to Rep. Hank Johnson for five years, during which time he had top-secret clearance for five months.
According to The New Yorker, Ossoff has taken “progressive positions on women’s issues and health care,” meaning that he supports abortion rights. According to Vox in 2017, Ossoff ran an “Obama-style [House] campaign,” placing himself between grassroots progressive activists in the Democratic Party and the more conservative and moderate Blue Dog Democrats. Ossoff says he opposes prison sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses and opposes defunding the police and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rather predictably, he accepts the “scientific consensus” on “climate change” and supports re-establishing American participation in the Paris Climate Agreement. Ossoff says he disfavors the “green new deal,” however.
Incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), 50, is a businesswoman and Georgia’s junior senator, who’s only been in office since January 2020 when Gov. Kemp appointed her to the Senate after Sen. Johnny Isakson resigned for health reasons. While serving the remainder of Isakson’s term, she has strongly aligned herself with President Donald Trump and during her current campaign has touted her “100% Trump voting record.”
She’s a former CEO of Bakkt—a subsidiary of the commodity and financial service provider Intercontinental Exchange, owned by her husband Jeffrey Sprecher. She also co-owns the “Atlanta Dream” team of the Women’s National Basketball Association. While she was cleared of any wrongdoing, she was implicated in the 2020 congressional “insider trading scandal” after selling stock in companies vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic. The stock was valued at several million dollars and the sale happened the same day she attended a private briefing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions about the disease, suggesting the stock sale took place before the public was fully informed about the pandemic’s full ramifications, according to conventional news accounts.
Loeffler and Purdue have shared several worthy goals. For example, in a recent letter to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, the senators requested broadening the USTR’s current Section 332 investigation—in order to include the impact of seasonal cucumber and squash imports on southeastern markets, because Mexican produce was undercutting local growers. The two senators also introduced a resolution that touted common-sense solutions to improve healthcare delivery, affordability, and choice. The senators’ resolution specifically discussed the need for protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, while also seeking lower prescription drug and medical device prices, lower insurance premiums etc.
Challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock (D), 51, who has been endorsed by Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, earned a M.Div, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary. In 2005, he became senior pastor of the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr.’s former congregation. In 2013, he delivered the benediction at the public prayer service at the second inauguration of Barack Obama, and in March 2019 hosted an interfaith meeting on climate change at his church featuring Al Gore. In March 2014, Warnock led a siting at the Georgia State Capitol to press state legislators to accept the expansion of Medicaid, where he and other leaders were arrested. From June 2017 to January 2020, Warnock chaired the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan organization focused on voter registration.
Scandal has shadowed Warnock. In 2002, while senior pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, Warnock and an assistant minister were charged with obstructing a police probe into suspected child abuse at a church-run camp in Maryland. Charges were dropped, and Warnock has stated the alleged abuse was “not sexual” and denied any wrongdoing, saying he felt attorneys should be present while state troopers interviewed counselors and juveniles. Warnock concluded a divorce from his wife of four years, Oulèye Ndoye, prior to the Nov. 3 election. In an act of possible damage control, the case has been sealed regarding an alleged incident in which Ndoye claimed Warnock drove over her foot with a car, which had surfaced right when Warnock prepared to qualify to run against Sen. Loeffler.
Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor. Email him at [email protected].