Georgia Senate Debates Summarized: Here's What You Missed - Rolling Stone
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What You Missed if You Missed the Georgia Senate Debates

Three of the four candidates in two senate races showed up to debate; one chickened out

Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff speaks during a debate for U.S. Senate on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. Sen. David Perdue declined to attend the debate. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, Pool)

Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff speaks during a debate for U.S. Senate on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. Sen. David Perdue declined to attend the debate.

Ben Gray/AP

Georgians are poised this January to decide the balance of power in the Senate and shape the trajectory of the Biden presidency in a pair of wildly competitive Senate runoff races. On Sunday night in Georgia, three of the four candidates running showed up to debate: Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler faced off against Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. In the other race, the Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, debated an empty lectern. Senior Georgia Sen. David Perdue, a Republican, sat this one out. Perdue had a bit of trouble the last time he deigned to debate Ossoff: A damaging clip of the documentarian taking the former Dollar General executive to task over insider trading investigations went viral. Concerns about Perdue’s conduct seem to be sticking in Georgia: Perdue — who made 2,596 stock trades in his first Senate term — is presently running a commercial in the state that declares he was “totally exonerated.” 

Ossoff Debates An Empty Lectern

On Sunday, Ossoff used his airtime to revive the allegations of Perdue’s financial impropriety, and highlight the fact that the senator opposes a second round of stimulus checks.  

Here are Ossoff’s remarks in full: “It’s a strange situation to be asking a question of a sitting United States senator who is not here to debate as he asks for the votes of the people to be reelected. Senator Perdue, I suppose, doesn’t feel that he can handle himself in debate or perhaps is concerned that he may incriminate himself in debate, both of which, in my opinion, are disqualifying for a U.S. senator seeking reelection. He may not wish to be asked questions, for example, about his trades in Regions Bank while he championed legislation to benefit the firm, or his trading of defense contractor stocks while he directed taxpayer dollars to them. But whatever the reason that Senator Perdue is not with us today, I think what I would ask him is why he continues to oppose twelve hundred dollars stimulus checks for the American people at this moment of crisis, why he fought against them in the first place and why he isn’t in Washington right now championing direct financial relief, stimulus checks directly for an American people who are suffering. If I had the opportunity to ask the senator a question — if the senator were not too much of a coward to debate in public — then that’s what I’d ask him.”

Loeffler Grilled on Stock Trades

Loeffler, appointed to her position in January by Gov. Brian Kemp, has had to contend with her own accusations of self-dealing amid her first 11 months in office. It was the first thing Warnock asked her about on Sunday. “When you received the private briefing regarding the coronavirus pandemic, you dumped millions of stock to protect your own investments. And then weeks later, when there came an opportunity to give ordinary Georgians an extra $600 of relief, you said you saw no need and you called it ‘counterproductive.’ Why do you think it’s counterproductive to help ordinary Georgians in the middle of a pandemic?”

Loeffler dismissed the query as “lies perpetrated by the left-wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda.” But Loeffler did sell roughly $2 million in stock after a January 23 briefing on the coronavirus, records obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution confirm. After the outcry over her stock sales, Loeffler and her husband,CEO of the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, have divested from individual stocks.

Asked  later if members of Congress should be barred from owning stocks, Loeffler refused to answer. She responded, “What’s at stake here in this election is the American dream. When they attack me for a lie — a leftwing media lie conspired with the Democrats by — this is an attack on every single Georgian who gets up every day to work hard to provide a better life for their family, who wants to live the American dream.”

Loeffler Dodges on Questions of Voter Fraud

Loeffler, who has called for Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State to step down in the wake of Trump’s loss there, repeatedly refused to answer the question of whether or not the president won the state of Georgia. “President Trump has every right to use every legal  recourse available… We’ve run two audits, and those audits discovered thousands of ballots across several counties here in Georgia that were not counted.” (An audit in November found thousands of ballots that initially went uncounted. Those votes were ultimately added to the official tally. Raffensberger chalked the mistake up to “mismanagement at the county level,” and not the widespread fraud alleged by the president and his supporters.)

Loeffler also declined to answer a follow-up question about Trump’s attacks on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, one of the individuals he blames for his loss in Georgia, saying only she appreciates support from both men: “they both understand what’s at stake in this election.”

Warnock Quotes Scripture When Asked About Castro

Loeffler raised allegations that Warnock invited former Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro to speak at his church. (In 1995,  Castro spoke at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, where Warnock was a youth pastor.) 

“I never met him, I never invited him, he has nothing to do with me,” Warnock said. “If you want to know who informs me and my sense of how we engage as people in the economic system, you need look no further than Matthew 25 — I’m a Matthew 25 Christian, that’s what I am:  ‘I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was sick and you visited me.’  Love your neighbor — and for me that means you don’t get rid of your neighbor’s health care, particularly in the middle of a pandemic.”

Loeffler’s response? “I’m not going to be lectured by someone that uses the bible to justify abortion, to attack our men and women in the military.” She went on to revive her accusations that Warnock is a “radical” anti-white leftist; a characterization he rejects.

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