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3 candidates, 1 empty podium at Georgia debate

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The battle for two U.S. senate seats in Georgia heated up on Sunday (December 6).

Contenders in a January runoff faced off for what will likely be their last debate ahead of a race that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler took on Democratic challenger Reverend Raphael Warnock, touching on issues from the pandemic to the November presidential election.

President Donald Trump has called that race rigged - without providing evidence.

Loeffler sidestepped a question over whether she agreed.

"You know, it's unfortunate that the focus is on a debate about who won the election when this process is still playing out and President Trump has every right to every legal recourse," Loeffler said.

Trump has not yet conceded to President-elect Joe Biden.

And he's thrown his weight behind the two Republicans vying for Georgia's Senate seats, even holding a rally there over the weekend.

At the debate, Loeffler said Warnock was a radical liberal and anti-police - an accusation Warnock denied.

"I do not want to defund the police and Kelly Loeffler knows it, but she keeps saying this because she wants to distract from her own record . She's done nothing to provide relief for ordinary people, the folks I'm seeing all across the state who are in pain in the middle of this pandemic," Warnock said.

Meanwhile, the Democratic challenger in the other runoff, Jon Ossoff, was left facing an empty podium.

Republican senator David Perdue opted out of the debate.

"Senator Perdue, I suppose, doesn't feel that he can handle himself in a debate, or perhaps is concerned that he may incriminate himself in a debate, both of which in my opinion are disqualifying for a U.S. senator seeking re-election," Ossoff said.

The Justice Department wrapped up an inquiry last year into Perdue's frequent stock trades as a senator without charges.

Democrats face an uphill battle in Georgia.

President-elect Joe Biden won the state in a narrow victory.

But Georgia has not elected a Democratic senator in 20 years.

Video Transcript

- The battle for two US Senate seats in Georgia heated up on Sunday. Contenders in a January runoff faced off for what will likely be their last debate ahead of a race that will determine control of the US Senate. Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler took on Democratic challenger the Reverend Raphael Warnock, touching on issues from the pandemic to the November presidential election. President Donald Trump has called that race rigged without providing evidence. Loeffler sidestepped a question over whether she agreed.

KELLY LOEFFLER: You know, it's unfortunate that the focus is on a debate about who won the election when this process is still playing out. And President Trump has every right to every legal recourse.

- Trump has not yet conceded to President-elect Joe Biden. And he's thrown his weight behind the two Republicans vying for Georgia's Senate seats, even holding a rally there over the weekend. At the debate, Loeffler said Warnock was a radical liberal and antipolice, an accusation Warnock denied.

RAPHAEL WARNOCK: I do not want to defund the police, and Kelly Loeffler knows it. But she keeps saying this because she wants to distract from her own record. She's done nothing to provide relief for ordinary people, the folks I'm seeing all across the state who are in pain in the middle of this pandemic.

- Meanwhile the Democratic challenger in the other runoff, Jon Ossoff, was left facing an empty podium. Republican Senator David Perdue opted out of the debate.

JON OSSOFF: Senator Perdue, I suppose, doesn't feel that he can handle himself in debate or perhaps is concerned that he may incriminate himself in debate.

- The Justice Department wrapped up an inquiry last year into Perdue's frequent stock trades as a senator without charges. Democrats face an uphill battle in Georgia. President-elect Joe Biden won the state in a narrow victory. But Georgia has not elected a Democratic senator in 20 years.