WASHINGTON — Georgia has two runoff elections on Tuesday that will decide control of the U.S. Senate and have a decisive influence on the ability of President-elect Joe Biden to advance his legislative agenda.
Here’s a look at the four candidates: Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
David Perdue, the 71-year-old Republican senator and former corporate executive, is fending off a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff.
The incumbent lawmaker was born in Macon, Georgia, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Georgia Tech. While in graduate school he began working for an international management consulting group, Kurt Salmon Associates.
Perdue had a globe-trotting business career, spending time in Asia and Europe. He held executive positions with Sara Lee Frozen Bakery LLC and Haggar Clothing Co. before joining Reebok International Ltd., rising to president and CEO of the Reebok brand. During his tenure, Reebok negotiated a contract with the National Football League to be the exclusive uniform and sideline apparel provider for the league from 2001 to 2012.
Perdue moved on to Pillowtex, a financially troubled North Carolina textile company that he left after less than year, shortly before the company shut down and shed thousands of jobs. He blamed the failure on an inability to raise sufficient capital in a short time. He then landed at Dollar General Corp., where as CEO he led a period of growth from 5,900 stores to 8,500 nationwide for the discount retailer.
After leaving Dollar General in 2007, Perdue served as a Georgia Ports Authority board member and formed Perdue Partners, an international trading company, with his cousin Sonny Perdue, the former two-term Georgia governor who became President Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary.
Perdue has depicted himself as an outsider in the Senate who can bring business sense to government. He’s been a loyal Trump ally and has echoed the president’s unfounded allegations of voter fraud in November.
Democrat Jon Ossoff is challenging Republican Sen. David Perdue in a campaign focused on expanding access to health care, reducing drug prices, preserving abortion rights, transitioning to clean energy sources, and passing a New Civil Rights Act to address racial disparities in policing and incarceration.
The 33-year-old documentary filmmaker gained national attention in a 2017 special election he narrowly lost for an Atlanta-area seat in the House of Representatives. Ossoff raised nearly $30 million in that race, helping to make it the most expensive House race in history.
The November Senate election put Ossoff just 1.8 percentage points behind Perdue. The race is going to a runoff since Perdue didn’t capture 50% of the vote, falling just short with 49.7%.
Ossoff got his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. He worked as a national security aide for Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson for several years, and did a high school internship in the office of the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon whom he describes as a mentor.
In 2013, Ossoff became CEO of Insight TWI, a company that helps reporters investigate, produce, and market documentaries on corruption in foreign countries. His campaign website includes footage from some of the company’s projects from Africa and the Middle East.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, is running for reelection after being appointed in 2019 by Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Johnny Isakson, who had two years left in his Senate term when he retired because of health concerns.
Born and raised in Illinois, Loeffler earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and her master’s in business administration from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business in 1999.
Loeffler, 50, was the chief communications and marketing officer for Intercontinental Exchange Inc., the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, where her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the chief executive officer. The 22% rally in ICE shares in 2020 helped make Sprecher a billionaire.
Loeffler was also the chief executive officer of Bakkt, an Intercontinental Exchange unit that trades Bitcoin futures. She’s a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the Women’s National Basketball Association.
The Republican incumbent finished second in the Nov. 3 general election, behind Raphael Warnock. Conservative voters split their ballots between her and GOP Rep. Doug Collins, who came in third.
Loeffler is a staunch defender of Trump and has supported his unfounded claims of voter fraud in the November election. She and Perdue, the other Republican incumbent, called for Brad Raffensberger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, to step down, alleging without evidence that he mishandled the November vote.
Like Perdue, she’s come under scrutiny for stock trades that began the day she and other senators got a classified briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, but investigations have led to no ethics or other charges.
Rev. Raphael Warnock, 51, is the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. preached. He won the most votes in November’s 20-candidate special election for one of Georgia’s Senate seats, almost 33%, although Republican votes were split between two major candidates.
Originally from Savannah, where he grew up in public housing, Warnock earned a bachelor’s degree at Morehouse College and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary. Before being chosen to lead Ebenezer Baptist in 2005, he was an assistant pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York and the senior pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore.
Warnock participated in protests to push Georgia’s elected officials to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. He’s also advocated for action to fight climate change, saying addressing environmental injustice is a moral duty.
Warnock offered a prayer at then President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and presided over the funeral of John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader who died in July.
Loeffler, his Republican opponent, has tried to paint Warnock as “radically liberal,” a line of criticism that’s been criticized by other faith leaders as an attack on the Black Church.