Who Is Running For Georgia’s US Senate Seats?

Sep 9, 2019

As you might already know, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot next November.

You also may know that Gov. Brian Kemp has selected Republican megadonor Kelly Loeffler to replace the retired Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson on the ballot in 2020 and, if successful, the governor’s reelection campaign in 2022. With official qualifying just weeks away, the time for candidates to enter into the race is drawing to a close.

One contest will have the winner of a Democratic primary contest facing Republican Sen. David Perdue. The other will be a “jungle” style special election, where all candidates, including Sen. Loeffler, will appear on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters – regardless of party – go to a runoff if no candidate gets above 50% of the vote.

What’s at stake

Both Republicans and Democrats have an increased interest in capturing these seats, as the road to control of the Senate appears to take a detour through Georgia. The Republican Senate majority is currently 53-47, and Democrats would need to win only three seats if they win the presidency and the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote.

Historically speaking, the “double-barrel” Senate races end up with the same party winning both seats. In 2018, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota won her third term, and recently-appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith won the race to serve out the rest of Sen. Al Franken’s term after he resigned due to allegations of sexual harassment.

According to the University of Virginia Center for Politics, there have been 55 instances where both senators have been on the ballot at the same time and only eight of them have resulted in a split ticket.

The last instance was in 1966, when newly-Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina won reelection while former Democratic Gov. Ernest Hollings captured the seat opened up by Democratic Sen. Olin Johnston’s death.

So who is running for what seat, when? This story will be updated as more information is known. For now, here’s what we have:

The original contest

Perdue is up for reelection in 2020. He was elected for his first term in 2014 and this seat was always going to be on the ballot, so let’s call this race Georgia Senate #1. Perdue launched a two-minute campaign video previewing a stump speech focused on the economy and “stopping socialism.”

On the Democratic side, former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson officially launched her campaign in the beginning of May. The one-time Republican touted her record as mayor and said she would bring “smart, pragmatic, effective government” to Washington.

RELATED: Democrat Teresa Tomlinson Enters 2020 Senate Race

At the end of July, current Clarkston mayor Ted Terry announced he would join the Democratic primary and “bring courage back to Washington.” He has pushed a number of progressive policies in Clarkston, such as a $15 minimum wage for city employees and a push to have the city run on 100% clean energy by 2050. Terry dropped out of the race in early January 2020 to run for a DeKalb County Commisison seat

RELATED: Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry Dropping Senate Bid To Run For DeKalb Commission

At the end of August, former Lt. Gov. nominee Sarah Riggs Amico launched her campaign centered around “faith” and a promise to renew voters’ faith in elected officials. The car-hauling executive pointed to her business experience and her statewide run for office last year as reasons she could win the nomination and defeat Perdue.

RELATED: Sarah Riggs Amico Enters Democratic Race For U.S. Senate

On Sept. 10, Jon Ossoff became the fourth Democrat to mount a campaign for Senate against Perdue. The one-time Congressional candidate and investigative documentary filmmaker said he wants to root out corruption in Washington.

RELATED: Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff Launches Senate Bid

A new challenger approaches

All three candidates say they are staying in the race against Perdue, even with Georgia Senate #2 in play. Isakson resigned from office at the end of 2019 due to health concerns, so Kemp appointed Loeffler to fill his seat.

RELATED: Kelly Loeffler Is Georgia's Next Senator

State law dictates Loeffler will hold the seat until a special election occurs during the next-planned statewide election, which happens to be… November 2020.

The special election is often known as a “jungle primary.” All candidates of all parties who qualify for the race appear on the same ballot, and the top-two vote-getters regardless of party advance to a runoff if nobody gets above 50%. 

The winner of that race will hold office until the regularly-scheduled election for that seat in 2022, a gubernatorial election year.

Allies of Georgia Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) in the state House made a play in late January 2020 to change the rules for the special election to have a special primary in May, forcing Loeffler into a direct challenge with Collins in May instead of splitting Republican votes in November. That effort failed, but Collins announced his entry into the race against the wishes of state and national Republicans.

RELATED: Doug Collins Is Running For US Senate
 

On the Democratic side, Matt Lieberman made an early entrance into the campaign as several other potential candidates mulled runs and sought support from the national party. 

In the days following the dramatic announcement of Collins' Senate run, Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, formally announced his campaign for higher office with the backing of local and national Democrats looking to win the seat.

The pair of races has also drawn several lesser-known candidates, ranging from former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver to federal student aid official Republican A. Wayne Johnson to Democrat Maya Dillard-Smith, who once lead the ACLU of Georgia.

In all, the Federal Election Commission has paperwork for 23 candidates running for both seats.

One name you won't find in either race? Democrat Stacey Abrams, whose unsuccessful 2018 campaign for governor came expanded the electorate and helped contribute to record-breaking turnout across the state.

Abrams is working on her voter protection group Fair Fight Action and plans to work in Georgia (and 20 other states) to support Democrats running for office and fight for “free, fair and secure elections in 2020.” With a chaotic Democratic presidential primary field barreling through primary elections, Abrams has also expressed interest in being a vice presidential pick.