By Jim EllisNov. 6, 2020 — With results changing as votes are continually being counted for the close Georgia presidential and senatorial races, it appears that we will see two Jan. 5 US Senate runoff elections in the Peach State, which will ultimately decide the body’s next majority.
At this writing, with an approximate 98 percent of votes counted, Sen. David Perdue (R), who will finish first, is 6,810 votes short of the majority mark. Georgia is one of two states where a candidate must receive 50 percent of the general election vote to win. The presence of Independent Shane Hazel capturing 2.3 percent helps deny Sen. Perdue a majority victory; hence, a second election is necessitated under Georgia election law.
Assuming that Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) wins his Alaska race – he’s ahead 62-32 percent with 50% of the vote reported – and incumbent Thom Tillis is officially re-elected in North Carolina, the Republicans will have 50 guaranteed members.
At this point, according to North Carolina officials, a number between 116-117,000 is the total universe of potential uncounted votes. This is the number of absentee ballots that were sent to voters who requested them but have yet to be returned. The only way they will be counted is if they entered the mail stream by Nov. 3 and are received before close of business on Nov. 12. Additionally, within this universe, Republican voters requested approximately one-third of the ballots.
With Sen. Tillis ahead by 96,688 votes according to the Fox News count, the mathematics suggest the Democrats have almost no chance of overcoming the lead especially when further considering that a significant percentage of those voters won’t even return the ballots.
To underscore the Democrats’ North Carolina dilemma, party nominee Cal Cunningham would have to receive 96,689 votes of this universe of just over 116,500 individuals, or 83 percent of the aggregate if everyone returns their ballots. If only 83 percent of those requesting the ballots have already mailed them to their respective county election center, for example, Cunningham would literally need to receive every vote. Therefore, this Senate race is a virtual lock for Sen. Tillis and the GOP.
The combination of a Tillis and Sullivan victory in North Carolina and Alaska would guarantee the GOP half of the Senate. This means that the Senate majority will be decided on Jan. 5. With the Republicans at 50, Democrats could then move into a tie with a sweep of the Georgia runoff elections. Assuming Joe Biden is declared the presidential winner, Vice President Kamala Harris would be able to break the tie in the Democrats’ favor. Conversely, the GOP would need only win one of the two to secure another term with Senate control.
The second runoff election is the special Senate campaign to fill the unexpired portion of Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) final term. He resigned at the end of last year due to health problems and businesswoman Kelly Loeffler (R) was appointed to replace him.
Under Georgia election law, she can only serve to the next general election — i.e., this 2020 electoral contest — and must win it for the right to serve the balance of the current term. In this instance, the Isakson term has only two years remaining, so the winner of the runoff election will have to run again in 2022 to secure a full six-year term.
The candidate joining Sen. Loeffler in the runoff election is Ebenezer Baptist Church Pastor Raphael Warnock, which is the same Atlanta church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father previously pastored. He placed first in the jungle primary election atop of 19 other candidates with 32.8 percent of the vote, some six-plus points ahead of Sen. Loeffler’s 26.0 percent. Since neither candidate reached the 50 percent threshold to claim the election outright, a runoff between the two finishers was mandated.
Combining the entire slate of Republican and Democratic candidates, we see a current 60,717-vote advantage for the GOP. The aggregate Republican percentage is 49.5 as compared to the aggregate Democrats’ 48.3 percent.
Early runoff polling is again likely to show a tight contest between Sen. Perdue and Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff. When asked in previous polling, Rev. Warnock generally held a lead over Sen. Loeffler when the two were isolated, but the GOP will operate from a slightly larger vote base assuming she can unite the party and US Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), the third-place finisher (20.0 percent), quickly endorses her candidacy.
It is likely that when all of the general election votes are counted nationally and finalized, we will still not have a clear understanding of which party controls the Senate. For that answer, we must now wait until Jan. 5.