Georgia’s Senate candidates participated in a debate on Sunday as the date of the state’s runoff elections nears. Many eyes have been focused on this race because it will determine which party will control the Senate.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic challenger, Raphael Warnock, faced off on the country’s various issues. GOP Sen. David Perdue decided not to debate his opponent, so Jon Ossoff stood and answered the moderator’s questions by himself with an empty podium standing in place of the missing candidate. But behind both events was the looming shadow of President Trump.
The Coronavirus Vaccine
During the debate, both candidates were asked if they would be willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it is released. Warnock stated that he is ready to take the inoculation and promote its use. He also said he would work to make sure that the underprivileged have access to the injection.
“When our health professionals tell us that we have a vaccine that works and is effective and safe, I will take it,” he said. “I will encourage the folks who listened to me, people who were in my church and in the community to take it.”
“Also, I will try to work hard as a senator to make sure that communities that are so often marginalized don’t find themselves at the back of the line again,” he continued.
Loeffler also affirmed that she would take the treatment. “I was with Vice President [Mike] Pence on Friday at the CDC; I could not be more proud of what we’ve done this year to deliver relief, but also get cures,” she recalled. “I’m going to encourage my fellow Georgians to stay safe, get that vaccine, and we have a great plan to prioritize those communities who need it most, and we will make sure that that’s carried out.”
Warnock’s Military Gaffe
Loeffler took a shot at her opponent at one point, asking him about comments he made about being able to serve God and enlist in the military. During a sermon that Warnock, a pastor, gave ten years ago, he said, “America, nobody can serve God and the military … You can’t serve God and money. You cannot serve God and Mammon at the same time. America, choose ye this day who you will serve. Choose ye this day.”
Warnock replied to his opponent, stating that he was referring to the verse in the Bible related to serving God and money. He said:
“I was preaching that day from very familiar Matthew text that said you can’t serve God and Mammon. 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 a better soldier. It also makes you a better senator. 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 U.S. senator to make millions on a pandemic while playing it down to the people she was supposed to be representing.”
The incumbent responded by pointing out that Warnock used the Bible to defend abortion. “I don’t need a lecture from someone who has used the 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. 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.”
On Trump Criticizing Gov. Kemp
Of course, the debate wouldn’t have been complete without bringing up the brouhaha going on between the Trump camp and GOP officials in charge of the state elections. Many on the right have taken issue with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s handling of the voter fraud issue, and some have gone as far as threatening to boycott the runoff election.
Both Loeffler and Perdue have been put in a position where they have to balance the line between appeasing Trump supporters upset over allegations of election fraud and steering clear of media wrath on the same topic. The moderator asked Loeffler about President Trump criticizing Gov. Kemp and calling on Rep. Doug Collins to run against him in 2022.
Loeffler responded, “the president has the right to pursue every legal recourse to make sure that this was a free and fair election in Georgia. And we know that these audits have turned up thousands of votes that were initially uncounted. And I’ve called for a signature audit.”
The moderator pressed her, asking if Trump was wrong for making his comments on Kemp. She explained that she appreciates the president’s support. “Look, the president – I appreciate the president’s support of me, and I appreciate the governor’s support of me. They both understand what’s at stake in this election. That’s why they’re encouraging Georgians to get out and vote for David Perdue and myself because we’re fighting for Georgians every single day.”
Like most political debates, it seems unlikely that this will move the needle when it comes to votes. While Perdue’s decision not to debate his opponent might cause some harm, it is unlikely to change minds. This race will be decided by the candidates who can persuade voters to show up at the polls after having already voted for president.
Read more from Jeff Charles.