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Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

Getting a Grasp on the Georgia Senate Run-Off Debate

The presidential election is over (depending on the media you follow, this has either been the case for over a month, less than a week, or not at all). But the nation is far from done with this year’s hotly contested election cycle—there are still two critical Senate runoff elections in Georgia, where two Democrats are running to unseat two staunchly Trump-supporting Republicans.

Before we examine the Democratic candidates, it’s worthwhile to mention some aspects of the incumbent senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. For the most part, both of the senators are typical members of the modern-day Republican party. According to FiveThirtyEight, each voted in line with President Trump’s wishes on over 90% of the bills presented before Congress during their overlapping terms, and Sen. Loeffler still has yet to openly admit that Joe Biden is the president-elect. Sen. Perdue has not explicitly stated it, but he acknowledged Biden’s victory in a video explaining why Republican victories in Georgia were so important.

What sets these candidates apart from many other members of the Republican party is not their policies or their support for Donald Trump, even though Sen. Loeffler was recently described by CNN as the “single biggest supporter” of his since her appointment in January to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Rather, their differences from the mainstream lie in their stock portfolios; specifically, how each candidate has found suspicious market success during their time in elected office.

Loeffler, having been in office for less than a year, has naturally had fewer opportunities to benefit in individual stock trades from access to private information. In her very first month as a senator, however, she was briefed by Dr. Anthony Fauci on the potential threat of the novel coronavirus. Within the next three weeks, Loeffler sold between $1 and $3 million of stock, and bought stock in two teleworking companies. It is important to note here that Loeffler has since stopped trading individual stocks, and has consistently relied on third-party actors to maintain her portfolio, so it is not possible to verify that she knowingly sold stocks as a direct result of the Jan. 24 meeting. Criticisms of Loeffler should therefore focus more on her anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion policies, as her election in January could bar the Biden administration from enacting powerful nondiscrimination legislation during the next four years.

Sen. Perdue’s stock trading practices, on the other hand, are perhaps the defining characteristic of his Senate tenure. Immediately after attending the same meeting as Loeffler on Jan. 24 (later that day, in fact!), Perdue bought “as much as $65,000 worth of stock in DuPont, the chemical and materials giant that makes protective equipment including gloves, gowns, and masks.” Between then and early March, Perdue made 10 more purchases of the company’s stock; he also purchased stock in Netflix and sold it in companies revolving around in-person service, such as a casino and a grocery store chain. 

Even outside of the context of COVID-19, Perdue has spent his time in the Senate growing his portfolio—interestingly, however, he has found success only in areas in which he is personally involved with his role as a senator. An analysis by Fortune found that on average, Perdue’s portfolio grew far slower than the aggregate S&P 500, seemingly indicating that he isn’t particularly talented in manipulating the financial market. Despite this, when Fortune looked at the growth of 10 stocks directly related to his involvement in the Senate, they found that Perdue beat not only the aggregate market, but also the returns of every hedge fund index compiled by Hedge Fund Research. “Clearly,” the article states, “such performance would be regarded as that of a star trader, and not that of a politician with other onerous duties.”

As if the activity of each current senator wasn’t enough of an indictment of their potential re-election campaigns, their opponents are genuine candidates who have pledged to fight for a better America for all.

Reverend Raphael Warnock, who is running to unseat Sen. Loeffler, comes from humble beginnings, growing up in Savannah’s Kayton Homes public housing with his parents and 11 siblings. To pay for his attendance at Morehouse College, Warnock relied on student loans and Pell Grants. Upon graduating, he earned his PhD, was ordained in the ministry, and became the youngest pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. If elected senator, Warnock has pledged to prioritize a wide range of issues, notably climate change and criminal justice reform.

Warnock has consistently aligned himself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, as evidenced by his sermons throughout time, which draw inspiration from the (also quite progressive) Rev. James H. Cone. As a result, he has been endorsed by progressive leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), and Stacey Abrams, as well as several similarly progressive organizations (the full list is available here on Warnock’s website).

Jon Ossoff, who hopes to replace David Perdue, is also a Georgia native. After graduating from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and getting a Master’s in Science from the London School of Economics, Ossoff worked for Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson as a national security aide, where he helped develop successful legislative policy and investigated nationwide issues affecting American citizens. From there, he became the CEO of Insight TWI, an investigative media company that has won awards for its exposure of various issues, including “sexual slavery of women and girls by ISIS, crooked judges, foreign officials who steal U.S-funded food and medical aid, contract killers, human traffickers, war crimes, and bribery.” 

Unlike Warnock, Ossoff isn’t a progressive by any means, but this doesn’t mean he should be written off as a status-quo Democrat. While he does not support the Green New Deal or Medicare for All, he recognizes the need for a rapid transition to clean energy and a strengthening of the Affordable Care Act, and he mirrors progressives in key issues like supporting women’s bodily autonomy and abolishing the death penalty. Ossoff’s main goal is to bring the anti-corruption vision of Insight TWI to the Senate, meaning that he could serve as a strong ally to progressives looking to end the deep influence of lobbyists, corporations, and dark money in American politics, even if he doesn’t agree with every progressive stance.

January 5 will be a monumental day for America, one that will determine the effectiveness of the Biden administration at achieving nearly any of its stated goals for the next four years. If the Democratic candidates emerge victorious, it will represent a referendum on the Trumpism embodied by the Republican candidates, and a hopeful turn towards progress in our nation.

Any mention of an election in Georgia would be incomplete without also mentioning the efforts of Stacey Abrams, who has worked tirelessly to get out the vote in her state and fight against voter suppression tactics that still plague Georgia—along with many other states—even today. If the Democratic candidates take victory in these runoff elections, they have her, along with a myriad of other Black activists to thank.