GEORGIA — Tensions are high in Georgia as the battle over the state's two U.S. Senate seats continues this month before the runoff election next month.
President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday he will be in Georgia this weekend to support Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans who will fight to keep their seats in the Jan. 5, 2021 runoff race.
Trump's visit, which is hosted by the Republican National Committee, will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Valdosta Regional Airport in south Georgia.
CNN reported that Loeffler and her Democratic challenger, Raphael Warnock, both accepted an invitation to participate in a debate this Sunday. However, Perdue declined an invitation to debate his opponent, Jon Ossoff.
Georgia certified President-elect Joe Biden's victory last month after an audit ordered by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. On the strength of gains in the state's metro areas, Biden won by 12,670 votes of the more than 5 million cast, according to The Washington Post.
Will be going to Georgia for a big Trump Rally in support of our two great Republican Senators, David and Kelly. They are fantastic people who love their Country and love their State. We must work hard and be sure they win. #USA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2020
The Georgia State Election Board met Nov. 23 to approve the "use of the 24/7 monitored drop boxes for use through the runoffs. Use of the boxes was originally set to expire in late December," Fox News reported.
As of Monday, CNN reported that requests for more than 940,000 mail-in ballots had already been submitted.
"A second rule adopted allows counties to continue to begin processing absentee ballots two weeks before Election Day – but now also mandates them to start processing them no later than a week and one day ahead of the election," Fox News reported. "But as per Georgia law, none of the ballots would be tabulated and counted until the polls close on Jan. 5."
Key dates to know about the special election:
Nov. 18: First day officials may mail an absentee ballot for the runoff
Dec. 7: Voter registration deadline to vote in the runoff election
Dec. 14: Advanced in-person or early voting begins for the general election runoff
January 5, 2021: Runoff election day
To find an early voting location, visit the Secretary of State's website.
Nationwide Support For Challengers
Perdue and Loeffler will face Democrat candidates Warnock, pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Ossoff, an investigative journalist, in two of the most high-stakes elections this year.
The reason this election has been the focus for many Americans is that if Warnock and Ossoff both win, Democrats are set to gain control over the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the White House.
Due to that, groups including the Sunrise Movement, the activist climate group that champions the sweeping climate change plan, have made Georgia their focus as they aim to register 10,000-20,000 voters before the runoff, according to the New York Times. This is in spite of the fact neither Democratic candidate has endorsed the Green New Deal.
"The furious efforts in Georgia by the Sunrise Movement and other progressive groups — on behalf of two candidates who do not share their most ambitious policy goals — reflect the urgency that is consuming the Democratic Party’s left flank," the New York Times said. "Two victories in Georgia would produce a 50-50 tie in the Senate, giving Democrats control of the chamber because Kamala Harris would cast tie breaking votes as vice president.
"Without Democratic control, progressive lawmakers, activists and their grass-roots supporters worry that they will not be able to achieve even a pared-down version of their policy wish list for the country."
Meanwhile, Fox News reports that Donald Trump Jr. will be "featured in super PAC ads in Georgia Senate race aimed at mobilizing Trump voters." And CNN reported that, "former President Barack Obama meanwhile is prominently featured in a new television ad for Ossoff, pitching him as an injustice-fighting crusader who will pass a new Voting Rights Act and "listen to the experts" in combating the coronavirus pandemic."
Attacks Take Focus From Senate Runoff
In an angry rebuke of Trump, one of Georgia's top elections officials warned that Trump's unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud would get someone "shot" or "killed."
Judges in multiple states, including Georgia and Pennsylvania, have dismissed lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign that claimed election fraud but offered no evidence. The president has not yet conceded that Biden has accumulated 306 electoral votes to win the race.
"When the president called (Georgia Secretary of State) Brad Raffensperger, who is a fine, upstanding, lifelong Republican, an 'enemy of the people', that helped open the floodgates for this sort of crap," Gabriel Sterling, head of election operations for the state, said in a Tuesday night news conference at the Georgia capitol.
"There are some nutballs out there who are going to take this and say, 'the president told me to do this'," Sterling continued, his voice tense. "You have to be responsible in your statements. This shouldn't be too much to ask."
Sterling cited intimidation to those involved with Georgia's elections, including sexualized harassing phone calls to Raffensperger's wife.
"The straw that broke the camel's back," Sterling said, was a death threat to a Gwinnett County technician with Dominion Voting Systems, egged on by social-media posts claiming that the technician was altering vote totals.
"This has to stop," Sterling said to Trump, Perdue and Loeffler. "We need you to step up. If you take a position of leadership, show some."
Several Georgia Republicans have joined in, and penned a letter asking the public to focus on the upcoming runoff election, rather than the attacks on local election officials.
"We have watched with increasing concern as the debate surrounding the state’s electoral system has made some within our Party consider whether voting in the coming run-off election matters," the statement read, according to CNN. "We say today, without equivocation, that without every vote cast for President Trump and all our Republican candidates on November 3 also being cast in the U.S. Senate runoffs, the trajectory of our State and Nation will be irreparably altered on January 5th. Now is the time to unite our Party and win these U.S. Senate seats."
Vice President Pence Visits
Last month, Vice President Mike Pence visited Georgia to rally for the incumbents where he heavily stressed the importance of voting in the runoffs as what could be "the last line of defense for all that's been done to defend the nation."
Pence had a message for Democrats: "we're going to keep Georgia and save America."
"Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are wrong for Georgia and wrong for America," he said. "We need you to stay in the fight for integrity in this election. We need the people of Georgia to stay in the fight to defend the majority. Stay in the fight until we send David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler back to a Republican majority in the United States Senate. Let's show the world what Georgia is all about."
A livestream can be found on Fox Business' YouTube page.