ATLANTA — U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and the Rev. Raphael Warnock faced off in their first, and possibly only, one-on-one debate Sunday night at the Atlanta Press Club, trading barbed attacks in their fight for the right to represent Georgia in the Senate.
Loeffler referred more than a dozen times to the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church as “radical, liberal Raphael Warnock,” and she warned that U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Washington Democrats want to use the Georgia Senate seat to ram liberal policies through Congress.
“The Democrats want to fundamentally change America,” the Republican said. “And the agent of change is my opponent, radical liberal Raphael Warnock.”
She also refused to answer whether President Donald Trump had lost the 2020 election. “This process is still playing out, and President Trump has every right to a legal recourse,” she said.
Loeffler was with Trump in Valdosta on Saturday as he claimed he won Georgia’s election and spun stories about ballots in Atlanta “coming out of ceilings and coming out of leather bags.” Democrat Joe Biden won Georgia by 12,000 votes.
For his part, Warnock continued his previous attacks on Loeffler — possibly the wealthiest member of Congress — painting her as enriching herself at the expense of Georgians suffering during the pandemic.
Warnock said he would put “ordinary people” at the center of his policymaking.
“She purchased that (Senate) seat,” Warnock said. “It’s done well for her. The only issue is that the people who sold it to her don’t own it.”
Responding, Loeffler said she grew up on a farm and was the first in her family to graduate from college. “I have lived the American dream,” she said.
Loeffler had been accused earlier in the year of trading stocks based on information she got in a classified briefing during the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was cleared after an investigation.
Earlier in the evening, Democrat Jon Ossoff had the stage to himself, with the exception of an empty podium, as his opponent, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, stayed away. When the question-and-answer portion of the debate came, Ossoff was allowed to ask the podium the question he would have asked Perdue and then answer the question himself.
“This is a strange situation,” Ossoff acknowledged.
“My message for the people of our state, at this moment of crisis, is that your senator feels entitled to your vote,” Ossoff said.
In skipping the debate, Perdue missed not only the forum, but also what would have been pointed questions from reporters on the panel about a barrage of recent reports about his stock trades during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his refusal, like Loeffler’s, to publicly acknowledge Biden as the president-elect.
After the debate, Perdue campaign manager Ben Fry released a statement hammering Ossoff’s comments about stricter COVID-19 measures and his call for comprehensive immigration reform. “Tonight we witnessed something we didn’t know was possible: A candidate lost a debate against himself,” Fry said.