Ahead of the dual senate runoffs set to take place within a month in Georgia, the two Republican incumbent senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, have signed a joint statement voicing support to invalidate the state’s presidential election outcome last month.
Georgia voters narrowly chose President-elect Joe Biden to become the next commander-in-chief, defeating President Donald Trump by a margin of just over 12,000 votes. Since then, Trump has insisted that voter fraud, in Georgia and elsewhere, was responsible for his electoral loss, but has cited no factual evidence to back his audacious claims.
On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against four states, including Georgia, alleging that changes to election laws made in response to the coronavirus pandemic were in violation of federal statutes, and that those changes allowed fraud to occur. However, Paxton’s lawsuit, much like the president’s complaints, does not contain any proof that fraud of any kind was actually committed.
In response to the lawsuit, which seeks to have the U.S. Supreme Court invalidate the election results of those four states and allow Republican-controlled state legislatures to decide the winner instead, Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr, himself a Republican, issued a statement decrying Paxton’s attempts to overturn the will of the voters in his state.
“With all due respect, the Texas Attorney General is constitutionally, legally and factually wrong about Georgia,” Carr said in his statement.
The issue of whether the election results in Georgia should be trusted or not has created a rift within the Republican Party in that state. Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, as well as a number of other state officials, maintain that the election was secure and free of fraud that Trump and others have wrongly asserted affected the integrity of the presidential election results.
Yet not every Republican shares that view. Nearly half of the Georgia state Senate Republicans have issued a statement in support of the Texas lawsuit, endorsing the plan to disenfranchise the voters of Georgia in last month’s election.
U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both Republicans who are set to take part in runoff elections next month against Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively, have also expressed their support of the Texas lawsuit, writing in a joint statement that they believe Trump has a right to ensure “full transparency and uniformity in the counting process” of the ballots in the presidential race.
“We fully support President Trump’s legal recourses and Attorney General Paxton’s lawsuit,” the two said.
Georgia has counted its ballots from the presidential election three times now, including two recounts. All three counts of the ballots have indicated that Biden was the winner in the state, and zero evidence of election fraud has surfaced.
Backing a lawsuit to invalidate their own constituents’ votes in last months’ races is perhaps a risky gambit for the two Republican senators ahead of their January 5 runoff elections. It’s possible that taking a position that the election wasn’t trustworthy could result in their base of voters being less inclined to turn out to vote, viewing the runoff elections as being no more trustworthy than the previous one.
That being said, it might be just as risky for the two incumbent senators not to back Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud. Going against the president would not only earn his ire, it could also upset their base of supporters, causing some of them to sit out the runoff races altogether, resulting in one or both Democratic challengers winning.
The stakes are high for these two races. If Democrats are successful in winning both runoff elections, the makeup of the Senate would be an even 50-50 split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote in that chamber of Congress. If Republicans are successful in winning just one of the two seats up for grabs, then Republicans will keep control of the Senate, allowing current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to obstruct the legislative priorities of Democrats and President Biden.
There aren’t a lot of polls for the runoff race available, but a recent SurveyUSA poll from the end of last month shows the race will likely be a tight one. Ossoff is currently leading Perdue by a slim margin of 2 percent (50 percent to 48 percent) — a statistical tie. The race between Warnock and Loeffler is a bit wider, with the Democrat leading the incumbent Republican by 7 points — 52 percent to 45 percent — according to that poll.