WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Georgia Democratic activist Stacey Abrams said on Sunday that her party would pour unprecedented resources into two runoff Senate races in the traditionally Republican-leaning state that will determine control of the top U.S. legislative chamber.
Abrams, who narrowly lost a race for governor in 2018, has been credited with boosting Democratic hopes in the state, where President-elect Joe Biden is currently leading by around 10,000 votes with the race there yet to be called.
Democratic candidates businessman Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock face uphill battles in their Jan. 5 runoffs against incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in runoff elections.
The election will likely decide whether Democrats can win seats they need to gain control of the Senate. Republicans are currently on course to win 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber while Democrats have 48. If the chamber has a 50-50 tie, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the deciding vote.
“I want to push back against this anachronistic notion that we can’t win in Georgia,” Abrams said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We will have the investment and resources that have never followed a runoff in Georgia for Democrats.”
Georgia law requires runoffs in races unless a candidate wins a majority of the vote. Perdue leads Ossoff 49.8%-47.9%, and secured more votes than either President Donald Trump or Biden did.
Warnock topped Loeffler with 32.9% of the vote to 25.9%, though the incumbent’s results were hurt by a challenge by fellow Republican Representative Doug Collins, who won 20% of the vote in a 21-candidate field.
She said Ossoff and Warnock are working together “to make certain voters come back” for an election in which lower turnout would be expected as presidential contenders will no longer be on the ballot.
After losing the governor’s race, Abrams focused on leading to effort to register more people to vote in a state with rapidly changing demographics, including an increase in the nonwhite population.
That control of the Senate rests on the outcome should also drive Democrats to the polls, Abrams said.
“This is going to be the determining factor of whether we have access to healthcare and access to justice in the United States. Those are two issues that will make certain that people turn out,” she said.
Republicans are equally confident that their voters will be motivated too even without Trump on the ballot, largely because wins in just one of the races would ensure they can block many Biden legislative goals.
“I cannot overstate how important to the country both those seats are,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz said on Fox News.
He said that with Democrats in control of the Senate, they would seek to add seats to the Supreme Court to wipe out its conservative majority, raise taxes and pass sweeping climate change legislation
“If you want a check on Joe Biden, if you don’t want to go over the edge to the socialist abyss, Georgia is the big enchilada,” he added.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama)