Former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson shocked the nation when he announced his surprise retirement in August of 2019. He officially stepped down in December of 2019, citing a long-term battle with Parkinson’s disease and declining health.
Businesswoman Kelly Loeffler was selected by Governor Brian Kemp to fill his seat until the next election. Her appointment was not without controversy.
President Donald Trump reportedly favored another candidate: U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He never publicly backed Collins.
Loeffler is only appointed to fill the seat until November, when Georgia Voters will choose who will occupy the seat for the rest of Isakson’s term, which ends in 2022. The winner will serve less than two years in the Senate before having to launch another campaign for reelection. Twenty candidates will be on the ballot.
Several Democrats are also hoping to flip the seat. National Democrats and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams are endorsing Reverend Raphael Warnock, a preacher at Ebenezar Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once held the pulpit.
Democrats Ed Tarver and Matt Lieberman are also vying for the seat. Lieberman, the son of former Vice President candidate Joe Lieberman, was the first to enter the race. But, he is facing pressure from many Georgia and national Democrats to drop out of the race.
“We need Matt Lieberman to understand that he is not called to this moment,” Stacey Abrams said in a September press conference. Lieberman has also faced pushback for a bizarre book he wrote about a modern-day slave owner after the 2017 Charlottesville White Supremacist rallies. The chairwoman of the Georgia NAACP called out the book’s racist tropes, but Lieberman claims it is anti-racist.
Democrats are hoping that they can unite voters behind Warnock while the Republican Party is split between Loeffler and Collins. If he wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, he can avoid a runoff with a Republican candidate. Former President Barack Obama also endorsed Warnock.
Trump is much less active in this particular race. He has not endorsed any candidates as of October 18th, 2020. A last-minute endorsement is not out of the question.
Loeffler’s short time in the Senate has also been filled with controversy. She came under fire for dumping stocks after a COVID-19 briefing in April, raising eyebrows about insider trading. The Senate Ethics Committee launched a probe into the situation, but dropped it in early June. Loeffler has been a staunch supporter of Trump in office, and is campaigning on that aspect of her career. She says she will continue to back him if she wins the election. She has also released a series of memes in support of Trump on her social media, and is trying to frame herself as the most conservative candidate. She launched a campaign ad in September claiming to be “more conservative than Attilla the Hun.” Loeffler also invested at least $20 million of her own money into her re-election campaign.
All 19 candidates will face off on the ballot on November 3rd. If no one gets over 50% of the vote, a run-off between the top two candidates will be scheduled for January 5th.