Sen. Kelly Loeffler repeatedly called her Democratic challenger a ‘radical liberal’ during her runoff debate, while Jon Ossoff faced an empty podium after incumbent GOP Sen. David Perdue refused to participate.
Georgia on Sunday night transformed into a political battlefield as candidates traded jabs ahead of the pivotal January 5 runoff race, which holds the fate of the Senate majority in the balance.
Loeffler accused Democrats and her opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, of wanting to ‘fundamentally change America into a socialist country.’
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GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler (left) faced off against her Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock (right), on Sunday in a senate race debate
‘The Democrats want to fundamentally change America and the agent of change is my opponent, radical liberal Raphael Warnock,’ Loeffler said, using the ‘radical liberal’ phrase she leveled a dozen times.
‘That’s not what Georgians need to get through this pandemic and get our economy going. I’m fighting for the American Dream every day.
‘I cannot stand by and let Georgians not know who my opponent is, how radical his views are, and how he would fundamentally change our country. He’s out of step with Georgia’s values.’
In an earlier session Sunday, Ossoff debated an empty podium, hammering Perdue as a ‘coward’ for skipping the debate.
‘He’s so arrogant that he disregarded public health expertise, and so arrogant that he’s not with us here today to answer questions. Your senator feels entitled to your vote,’ Ossoff said.
Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff (pictured) appeared on the debate stage alone after Sen. David Perdue declined to participate
Thousands of Trump supporters converged on small town for Georgia Victory Rally to show support for President Donald Trump and two Republican incumbent U.S. senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (pictured)
‘He believes this Senate seat belongs to him,’ Ossoff said of the Republican incumbent.’
Sunday’s debates come after President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have campaigned in the state to secure a Republican victory.
‘You must go vote, vote early,’ Trump told the crowd in Valdosta. ‘They cheated, they rigged our presidential election, but we will still win it. They’re going to try and rig this election too.’
Republicans currently hold 50 seats in January, but if Loeffler and Perdue lose the Senate will divided 50-50. In that case, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will make a tie breaker.
In Atlanta, Loeffler began the evening by refusing to say if Trump had won or lost the 2020 Presidential election against Joe Biden.
Warnock, a senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, pressed Loeffler for a dry-cut answer early in the debate.
‘My question is actually pretty simple, yes or no, Sen. Loeffler,’ Warnock questioned from behind his podium.
‘The President has every right to every legal recourse and that’s what’s taking place,’ she said, per video from The Atlanta Press Club.
Rev. Warnock (left) pressured Loeffler (right) to say whether she believed President Trump had won the General Election or not
President Donald Trump shares the stage with U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., who are both facing runoff elections
‘The President was clear that Georgians need to come out and vote for David Perdue and myself because of what’s in stake in this election.’
When asked again to clarify her thoughts on the election, she once again skirted away from giving a direct answer.
‘It’s very clear that there were issues in this election,’ Loeffler said.
The senator later alleged, without any supporting details, irregularities in the November elections and repeated Trump’s right to ‘legal recourse’ without acknowledging that the president’s campaign has lost round after round of post-election court challenges, including in Georgia, which has already certified its results.
Warnock blasted the senator for ‘casting doubt’ on a legitimate election.
‘The people have spoken on the presidential election, and they’re waiting on their senator to be focused on them, not the person in the White House,’ he said.
‘Here we are several weeks after the election and Kelly Loeffler continues to cast doubt on an American democratic election. It’s time to put this behind us and get focused on the concerns of ordinary people.’
Loeffler attempted to gain ground against Warnock by bringing up accusations of anti-police rhetoric and accused him on supporting the ‘Defund the Police’ movement.
Loeffler said Warnock was not someone who ‘respects our men and women in law enforcement’ and alleged he would ’empty the prisons and end cash bail.’
‘He did call police officers gangsters and thugs,’ Loeffler said, referring to one of Warnock’s sermons at his church. ‘He won’t keep our communities safe.’
Warnock responded that he doesn’t believe Americans ‘should defund the police, but we certainly need criminal justice reform. We can do all that and celebrate police at the same time.’
The candidates circled back to the topic near the end of the debate when questioned about their stance s on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Loeffler called Black Lives Matter a ‘fascist’ movement.
Pictured: Sen. Kelly Loeffler, center, and Democratic challenger for U.S. Senate Raphael Warnock, right, appear during a debate Sunday
Warnock: ‘Here we are several weeks after the election and Kelly Loeffler continues to cast doubt on an American democratic election. It’s time to put this behind us and get focused on the concerns of ordinary people’
‘Well, the life of every African-American is important, and there is no place for racism in this country,’ she said.
‘But there are organizations whose number one goal is to defund the police. And we know that that hurts minority communities more than anyone. And we have to stand with our men and women of law enforcement. And I will always do that.’
Warnock hit back that the criminal justice reform was needed, and that following the deaths of numerous black Americans this summer.
‘A multiracial coalition pouring out into American streets after the tragic deaths of Georgia Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others. And what did Kelly Loeffler do? She used her enormous privilege and power as a U.S. senator to pick a fight with the Black women on her [WNBA] team,’ he said.
Loeffler, who co-owns the Atlanta Dream, prickled at the suggestion she may be racist.
‘There’s not a racist bone in my body,’ she said.
Much of Sunday’s debate focused on the Covid-19 pandemic that inundated Georgia this summer.
Loeffler on Saunday denied suggestions that she was racist during the Georgia Senate debate
Warnock used the opportunity to slam Loeffler for the current impasse in Congress over another round of Covid-19 financial relief. Earlier this year, both Loeffler and Perdue opposed a $600 boost to weekly unemployment checks, saying it would disincentive a return to work.
Senate Republicans are negotiating with Trump and Democratic leadership on a relief deal that may come before the holidays.
‘They haven’t gotten any from Kelly Loeffler in months and when she had a chance to stand up for ordinary people, she thought $600 was too much.’
Warnock also confronted Loeffler about her selling $20million in stock before the pandemic began following a closed-door Senate briefing about the virus.
‘Kelly Loefflers’ out of touch. She’s thinking about people who are like her. And I’m okay with the fact that she wants to make money. I just think you shouldn’t use the people’s seat to enrich yourself. You ought to use the people’s seat to represent the people,’ Warnock said.
‘I’ve been completely exonerated,’ Loeffler said, referring to the end of the investigation. ‘Those are lies perpetrated by the left-wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda.’
During the debate, Warnock also confronted Loeffler about her selling $20million in stock before the pandemic began following a closed-door Senate briefing about the virus.
However, both candidates said they would take the Covid-19 vaccine when presented to the public.
During the debate, Warnock was forced to defend himself about his 2011 remarks he made suggesting people cannot serve both God and the military.
Warnock alleged that Loeffler was misrepresenting his remarks, and that they came from scripture he was quoting.
‘It was a sermon about a moral foundation for everything that we do. And that when you have everything in order, that actually makes you better solider. It also makes you better senator,’ said Warnock.
‘And had Kelly Loeffler listened to the sermon, rather than trying to make a cheap political point, she would not have used her advantages as US senator to make millions on a pandemic while playing it down to the people she was supposed to be representing,’
Loeffler replied that she knew which Bible verse Warnock referred to, and then accused him of using the Bible to justify abortion.
‘I don’t need a lecture from someone who has used bible to not only justify attacking our military. That’s not in Matthew 6:24. It doesn’t say you can’t serve the military and God. But he’s also used the Bible to justify abortion.’
Warnock said he had a ‘profound reverence for life and abiding respect for choice.’
Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff speaks during a debate for U.S. Senate on Sunday in Atlanta. Sen. David Perdue declined to attend the debate
The back-and-forth between Loeffler and Warnock followed a one-man show with Democratic Senate candidate, Jon Ossoff.
While standing by himself at a podium, Ossoff leveled attacks at Perdue after the senator declined two invitations to show up.
‘While he has been enriching himself in office, he’s been blocking relief,’ said Ossoff, echoing Warnock’s remarks about Loeffler.
He also brought up the insider trading investigation into Perdue, calling it a ‘cartoonish abuse of power,’ but moderators clarified that no charges were filed.
Ossoff said he had not seen evidence of Perdue’s innocence and asked his opponent to provide some.
‘If you have any evidence that Fed investigators have exonerated you, you should present it,’ said Ossoff.
During the question-and-answer portion, Ossoff was told to ask the podium the question he would have asked Perdue. He then had to answer himself, the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
‘This is a strange situation,’ Ossoff noted.
Ossoff has challenged Perdue to six more debates before the senate runoff election.