Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) tested positive for the coronavirus during her campaign to retain her Senate seat in a special election against Democratic candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock.
Loeffler would tested positive on Friday; according to her campaign, she received an inconclusive further test result on Saturday and is asymptomatic. She is currently in quarantine. If she follows Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention directives, she will have to refrain from interacting with others – including hosting campaign events in person – for at least 9 more days, a significant setback given that the special elections in Georgia are fast approaching, January 5.
The senator campaigned in person on Friday before her test, after receiving a negative test in the morning; her events have brought her in close contact with Vice President Mike Pence and fellow Georgian David Perdue, a Republican who will also be on the ballot on Jan. 5, potentially exposing them to infection. Pence has had a number of exhibitions, including at a mass-market White House event held to celebrate Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, but appears to have avoided the infection so far.
Loeffler and Perdue are both in close races; Perdue runs against Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, a filmmaker who narrowly lost a hotly contested congressional race in 2017.
Both contests have gained national significance as their results will decide which party will control the Senate and how well President-elect Joe Biden will be able to fill seats in his cabinet, let alone pursue any kind of legislation he has. promised during his campaign.
Some republicans, as Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said that if Republicans were in control of the Senate, Biden “would be well advised not to name radical progressives and people who would be in trouble.” And a GOP-controlled Senate would likely limit the size and scope of any future coronavirus stimulus and aid package, as the Republican Party has repeatedly said it believes the Democrats’ plans to sweep away the legislation Covid-19 are unnecessary and would add too much to the national debt.
Polls show a race it’s basically related. And as Vox’s Ella Nilsen explained, while normally Republicans would be seen as having an advantage in Georgia’s playoffs – which are generally lower turnout contests than normal elections – this year a number factors make the two races unpredictable.
On the one hand, notes Nilsen, “Metro Atlanta is booming, and a lot of the people who move there are young and diverse. More and more, they are voting Democrats. This new influx of voters, coupled with efforts by activists and local Democratic Party officials to register new voters and increase voter turnout, resulted in a narrow victory for Biden in the state.
Second, both races have received national attention – Democrats and Republicans both see victory as essential, as both want control of the Senate. This resulted in an influx of money and volunteers, as well as an unprecedented focus on the two seats.
Third, Loeffler and Lost were both involved in financial scandals related to the stock transactions they made at the start of the pandemic, including sales that kept them from suffering massive financial losses and business acquisitions that increased their value in due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Both candidates received information not yet publicly available on the severity of the coronavirus and its potential consequences. The two made savvy trades after learning this information, which senators claimed was done without their knowledge. The Justice Department briefly investigated Loeffler and several other senators before dropping its investigation; and Loeffler and Perdue were both authorized by the Senate Ethics Committee (a body which, Ed Kilgore notes in New York Magazine has a “very tolerant approach to conflicts of interest”).
But it’s the last variable that perhaps injects the most uncertainty into the race: President Donald Trump.
Trump is not helping Loeffler and Perdue because he is still focused on overturning November 3 election results
Trump has been of no use to either Republican, as he has focused primarily on questioning the results of Georgia’s presidential election results. He lost the state by 12,636 votes, but wrongly insists that election officials counted badly.
Georgia has already counted its ballots twice – the second time was a manual recount, where all of its 5 million votes were reviewed and tabulated by qualified election officials. Biden won both of these accounts.
The state certified its election results on Friday, with Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger saying he supported the tally.
“As an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie” Raffensperger said Friday morning. “The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision of the Secretary of State’s office or the courts or either campaign.”
Governor Brian Kemp also endorsed the results.
But the Trump campaign requested Another recount on Saturday said in a statement, “We strive to ensure that all aspects of Georgia State law and the US Constitution are respected so that every legal vote is counted.
And Trump has repeatedly posted tweets questioning the results in Georgia – and other states – incorrectly claiming that illegal ballots were counted and spread conspiracy theories debunked on the machines and software used to count the votes during the first count.
These efforts diverted time and attention from Senate races, and complicated message from republicans on runoff. Rather than focusing on the issues, both candidates were forced to proclaim their support for Trump in his pipe-dreaming attempt to overturn the election results.
During his stopover in Georgia, Pence told the audience, “As our electoral contests continue, here in Georgia and in courts across the country, I [a] promise: we will keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We will continue to fight until every illegal vote is rejected.
And Notes from Claudia Grisales of NPR that Perdue’s efforts to frame the second round as the only way to verify Biden and keep the Senate in GOP hands were interrupted by chants of “Stop Theft!” – a rallying cry used by Trump supporters who mistakenly believe the election is being stolen from him.
Adding to the widespread concern that Trump could lead Republicans to sabotage himself in Georgia is the fact that the president has worked to question the professionalism of election officials there, calling Raffensperger corrupt, Kemp and ‘incompetent.
“Georgia’s self-styled Republican Secretary of State (RINO) won’t let people who check the ballots see the signatures for fraud,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Everyone knows that we have won the state. Where is @BrianKempGA? “
The fact that the people who run the special elections cannot be trusted does not appear to prompt supporters of the president to enter the contests. Trump has yet to explain why Georgians should vote for Loeffler or Purdue. And if the race is as close as the presidential race, the two senators will need every vote to keep their seats.