National Post (Latest Edition)

In Georgia, it’s Nov. 3 all over again

- Ben Riley- Smith in Savannah, Georgia

The sky was pure blue and the trees heavy with Spanish moss as Jon Ossoff took the microphone in a park on the outskirts of Savannah, Ga.. “Y’all, Tuesday is it,” said the 33-year-old Democratic candidate for the U. S. Senate. “Tuesday is everything.”

About 200 supporters muttered “yes sir” and “preach it” as Ossoff ’s stump speech outlined what was on the line. “The whole country is watching Georgia to see what kind of a statement we’re going to make about the values that we stand for, about what’s in our hearts as a state and as a people,” he said.

He was not wrong. Across the rest of America, the election is fading into the past — but not in Georgia.

Thanks to the quirks of the state’s electoral system, the occupants of its two U. S. Senate seats will be decided Tuesday after run- offs were ordered when no candidate took more than 50 per cent of the vote in November.

Hanging in the balance is not just state power but control of the U.S. Senate.

Currently the Republican­s hold 50 seats and the Democrats 48. Win both and the Democrats pull equal, with Kamala Harris, the incoming vice president, casting the deciding vote — allowing them to control proceeding­s. Lose just one and the Republican­s keep their majority and ability to veto measures.

Those watching Ossoff were aware of the stakes. Sam Gostomski, a 24- yearold volunteer performing temperatur­e checks on visitors as part of COVID-19 safety measures, had travelled from Austin, Tex., to help out.

“All of that work doesn’t mean as much if we don’t take the Senate and get some reforms passed,” Gostomski said.

“It’s not an exaggerati­on to say this is the most important race in America right now.”

Ossoff is a documentar­y filmmaker who shot to prominence in 2017 by almost winning a House of Representa­tives seat in Georgia and packs his speeches with floaty appeals to the greater good.

The Democrat seeking the other Georgia seat, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, is quite different.

The 51- year- old African- American’s addresses have the ring of the pulpit. Speaking at a drive- in rally also in Savannah on Sunday, he referenced his spiritual upbringing while taking aim at his Republican opponent Kelly Loeffler, 50.

“She’s been busy, as we say in church, calling me everything but a child of God. Lying on me, misreprese­nting my record. We say in church, scandalizi­ng my name,” he said.

“But that’s all right. My mumma told me that it’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to. And in just a few days she can call me Senator Raphael Warnock.”

To win, supporters and politician­s on both sides agree, the Democrats need a vast turnout.

They did just that in November, registerin­g scores of new voters and making Joe Biden the first Democratic presidenti­al nominee to win Georgia since 1992.

Early voting, which tends to favour the left, has been high. Polling averages suggest both Democrats lead by around two per cent.

But Republican­s, who have dominated politics in the southern state for decades, remain hopeful.

Loeffler, who is married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, dubbed Warnock a “radical liberal” 13 times during a recent debate,

Ossoff ’ s opponent, the 71- year- old incumbent Republican David Perdue, took a different tack. He has attempted to ignore his opponent, even refusing debates with him.

The election’s biggest unknown factor comes thanks to Donald Trump, who, like Biden, was due to campaign in the state Monday.

Democrats on Monday were asking for an FBI investigat­ion into his phone call on Saturday to Georgia’s secretary of state in which he asked Brad Raffensper­ger to “find” enough votes to overturn his election loss in the state.

In another blow to Trump, Sen. Tom Cotton refused to sign on to a longshot campaign by nearly a dozen other Republican­s in the U. S. Senate this week to challenge Biden’s victory, warning it was outside of Congress’ power and would “establish unwise precedents.”

Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and others plan to defy Republican Party leaders by objecting on Wednesday when lawmakers meet to tally the votes in the Electoral College — a largely symbolic act.

Cotton, Cruz and Hawley are among those considered possible 2024 presidenti­al candidates. Trump has also floated the idea of running again in 2024.

It was not immediatel­y clear how the release of Trump’s call with Raffensper­ger could affect the Republican­s’ objection plan.

“This call was not a helpful call,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who is among those planning to object to the certificat­ion, told Fox News.

The political danger was evident on Sunday as about 50 Republican­s gathered at a boutique furniture store in downtown Savannah for a pre- vote pep talk. Melynda Loomis, the 52- year- old treasurer of the local Republican branch, fears Republican­s will not vote in the runoff after losing faith in the process.

“They don’t believe it any more and that’s sad,” she said. “They don’t think their vote counts.”

If many others follow suit, Trump’s last month in office could deliver one final irony: That in pursuing claims of election fraud so relentless­ly, he hands the Senate to the man who defeated him.

the most important race in America right now.

 ?? Jonat han Ernst / REUTERS ?? Democratic U. S. Senate candidate from Georgia Jon Ossoff shares elbow bumps with supporters in Atlanta on Monday prior to the arrival of President- elect Joe Biden
at a drive-in campaign rally ahead of the run- off elections today.
Jonat han Ernst / REUTERS Democratic U. S. Senate candidate from Georgia Jon Ossoff shares elbow bumps with supporters in Atlanta on Monday prior to the arrival of President- elect Joe Biden at a drive-in campaign rally ahead of the run- off elections today.

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