Sen Loeffler, Rev Warnock, Whose Race Could Determine Senate Control, Set To Face Off In Only Scheduled Debate

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic challenger, Rev. Raphael Warnock, will face off in their only scheduled debate Sunday evening in a race with enormous political implications.

Their race is one of two Georgia Senate runoffs that will determine whether Democrats can gain the slimmest of majorities in the U.S. Senate. If Warnock beats Loeffler and if GOP Sen. David Perdue loses his seat to Jon Ossoff, his Democratic challenger, then the Senate will be split 50-50, giving Democrats a majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote.

The debate, which is sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club and will be broadcast nationally by CNN, will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday. Not only is it the only scheduled debate between Loeffler and Warnock, but it is also the only scheduled debate for either race, according to the Associated Press. Perdue has declined to debate Ossoff ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff.

Ossoff, who has repeatedly called for Perdue to debate him, will still be given a platform Sunday evening to try and earn Georgians’ votes, according to the Atlanta Press Club.

The races have resulted in record spending, with over $300 million already spent across the two contests in media markets alone. (RELATED: 2024 GOP Hopefuls Test Appeal Stumping In Georgia)

Democratic Senate candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock speaks at a rally on October 24, 2020, in Duluth, Georgia. (ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Both parties have emphasized the importance of turning out as many voters as possible, which forecasters say could be the difference in races that are expected to be close.

President-elect Joe Biden won the state by fewer than 11,000 votes out of over 5.5 million cast. All four senatorial candidates failed to clear the 50% needed in November to avoid a January runoff.

While Perdue earned 49.7% of the vote, just barely missing the threshold, Loeffler, whose race featured over 20 candidates, finished with 25.9% of the vote. Ossoff and Warnock finished with 47.9% and 32.9%, respectively.

President Donald Trump rallied with Perdue and Loeffler in Valdosta, Georgia, Saturday evening. Trump praised Perdue and Loeffler throughout his 100-minute speech, but he also repeatedly expressed his frustration over the state’s presidential election, which he described as “rigged” and “stolen.”

Some Republicans, like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Reffensperger, said that the “distractions” and “disunity” brought by Trump continuously airing his grievances over the election could ultimately harm Republicans in January. (Georgia GOP Election Official Explodes On Trump For ‘Inciting’ Violence With Rigged Election Claims)

“These distractions, this disunity, it does make [the runoffs] more difficult,” Raffnesperger said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday morning.

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