Fight for Senate control awaits in Georgia

Republican candidate for Senate Sen. Kelly Loeffler greets supporters as she walks on stage at an election night watch party in Atlanta, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Loeffler will be in a run off against Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock for the U.S. Senate seat. (AP Photo/Tami Chappell)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Control of the Senate won’t be decided until a January runoff in Georgia.

That post-election cliff-hanger will determine the balance of power in Washington, as neither party appears to have a lock on a Senate majority right now.

So far, the tally for the next Senate is 49 Republicans and 48 Democrats after Tuesday’s election. Two seats in Georgia are headed to runoffs on Jan. 5. And a seat in Alaska is still too early to call.

The stakes are high for a momentous political struggle in Georgia. The state is closely divided, with Democrats making gains on Republicans, fueled by a surge of new voters. But no Democrat has been elected senator in some 20 years. As much as $500 million could be spent on the two races, one strategist said.

“Now we take Georgia, and then we change America,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told a crowd Saturday on the streets of Brooklyn.

With a Democratic majority in the Senate, the party that also controls the House would have a firm grasp on power in Washington.

“The Senate is the last line of defense,” tweeted the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

That would put Georgia center stage, as many expect is about to happen.

Both Senate seats in the state are now held by Republican incumbents. They were forced into the January runoff contests after no candidate reached the 50% threshold needed to win outright in multi-candidate races.

GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face Rafael Warnock, a black pastor. And Republican Sen. David Perdue will face Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.

“Now more than ever, we NEED to keep the Senate in Republican hands,” tweeted Loeffler. She said Saturday that she and Perdue are “the last line of defense against the radical left.”

Ossoff’s campaign aired a new ad, detailing a “path to recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. He calls for following the advice of medical experts to deal with the virus and a massive infrastructure plan to create jobs.

“We need leaders who bring us together to get this done,” Ossoff says in the ad.

“It’s all on the line in Georgia,” said Steven Law, the president of Senate Leadership Fund, the outside group aligned with McConnell that spent big trying keep Senate control.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded her colleagues of the stakes for the entire party during the lame-duck sprint ahead.

“How we conduct it in the next two months will affect how we do in Georgia,” Pelosi told House Democrats, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private caucus call. She reminded colleagues to be “respectful.”