(The Center Square) – The fate of which party holds power in the U.S. Senate for the next two years is in the hands of Georgia voters.
Heading into the next session of Congress, Republicans hold a 50-48 advantage over Democrats with Tuesday's U.S. Senate runoff elections looming in Georgia.
Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. David Perdue faces Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff, and Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is being challenged by Democrat Raphael Warnock. The runoff elections materialized after no candidate in either race garnered a majority of the vote in November's general election.
If Republicans win one or both of the elections, the GOP will retain control in the U.S. Senate. If Democrats win both elections, the chamber will be split, 50-50, with Democrat and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaker vote.
"We've got a job to do here in Georgia," Loeffler told supporters at a recent campaign rally. "America is counting on us. If you vote, we will win. If you don't, we will lose America."
"This election is about the difference that we can make in our lives when we elect people who care about the people more than they care about themselves," Ossoff said.
Perdue, who won 49.73% of the vote to Ossoff's 47.95% in the general election, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014. Before winning public office, Perdue was in business, and his previous jobs included serving as CEO at Reebok, Dollar General and Pillowtex.
Ossoff, an investigative journalist and media executive, ran for Congress in 2017 in the special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional District.
Loeffler and Warnock emerged from a pack of 21 candidates in the general election, where Warnock won 32.9% of the vote compared with Loeffler's 25.91%.
Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler, a businesswoman and co-owner of Atlanta's WNBA franchise, in December 2019 to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired.
Warnock is senior pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached.
The circus surrounding Georgia's presidential election and Perdue and Loeffler's support for President Donald Trump have dominated the conversation regarding the runoff elections, pushing policy to the background.
Perdue and Loeffler have framed the runoff elections as saving America versus radical socialism.
Perdue has said an Ossoff victory would lead to illegal immigrants voting, police being defunded, higher taxes, private health insurance being taken away, small businesses going out of business and the U.S. Supreme Court being packed.
Republicans need to win the two Senate seats "to protect everything that Donald Trump accomplished in these first four years," Perdue said.
Ossoff has attacked Perdue for his stock dealings in the aftermath of learning about COVID-19 and his opposition of Medicaid expansion, which Ossoff said would help keep rural hospitals afloat and make health care more affordable.
"We've lost nine rural hospitals in 10 years here in Georgia," Ossoff told supporters at a recent campaign rally. "Where's David Perdue been? While the people are forced to move hours across the state just to get to the emergency room. That's not right."
Loeffler has painted Warnock as a radical liberal and Marxist who "wants to raise taxes, socialize health care, rip away our rights, and crush our economy with the Green New Deal." She has attacked Warnock for failing to support law enforcement.
"Violent crime in Atlanta is the highest it’s been in 20 YEARS – yet [Warnock and Ossoff] are totally silent," Loeffler tweeted. "By refusing to stand with law enforcement – and instead supporting defunding the police – they’re enabling the violence."
Warnock also has questioned Loeffler's stock trades after a senators-only briefing in January regarding the coronavirus, and he said Loeffler helped stall a second round of coronavirus aid for Americans for nine months.
"[Loeffler] made her priorities clear when she sold $3 million of her own stock, called unemployment relief 'counterproductive,' and stalled relief for nine months," Warnock tweeted. "Georgians learned long ago they can't trust Kelly Loeffler to look out for anyone but herself."