Georgia Senate runoff debate

By Melissa Macaya

Updated 10:46 PM ET, Sun December 6, 2020
12 Posts
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10:00 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Warnock questions Loeffler on dumping stocks at the start of the pandemic

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury and Caroline Kelly 

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Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock challenged Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler about dumping millions of dollars of stock at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and then calling an extra $600 of relief to Georgians counterproductive.

"I’ve been completely exonerated. Those are lies perpetrated by the left-wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda," Loeffler said.

Warnock pushed back and said that if it were up to Loeffler, Georgians would not have received the $600 of expanded unemployment benefits provided by Congress.

"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.

Some background: Earlier this year, a number of senators came under fire for stock sales after Covid-19 tanked the stock market. Loeffler and others faced questions about why they were selling stocks in February, before the stock market took a nosedive as the outbreak spread across the US and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost roughly 30% of its value.

See more:

9:54 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Both candidates say they will take a Covid-19 vaccine

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

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Georgia's incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, both said at tonight's debate that they would take a coronavirus vaccine, when it is ready and deemed safe. 

Warnock, who was asked the question first, said he would take and promote a vaccine, and also work to ensure underprivileged populations are not at the back of the line. 

"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 added.

Loeffler said she would also take it, and used the opportunity to promote her relationship with the outgoing Trump administration.

"Absolutely," she said, when asked by the moderator if she would take and promote a vaccine. 

"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 said.

"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," she added.

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9:50 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Warnock presses Loeffler on whether she believes Trump lost the election

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

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Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock pressed Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler on whether or not she believes President Trump lost the election during tonight's debate.

"My question is actually pretty simple, yes or no, Sen. Loeffler: Did Donald Trump lose the presidential election?" Warnock asked.

Loeffler declined to directly address the question.

"President Trump has every right to use every legal recourse available," Loeffler said, adding that she is pushing for a signature audit in the state.

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9:49 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Loeffler won't say if she stands by Trump's narrative that election was rigged

From CNN's Caroline Kenny, Kristen Holmes and Veronica Stracqualursi

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In the first question of tonight’s debate, Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler was asked if she stands by President Trump’s narrative that the election was rigged and if she supports his demand for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to call a special session to overturn the results.

Loeffler didn’t give an answer but said that “the President has every right to every legal recourse and that's what's taking place.”

She continued by saying, “the President was clear that Georgians need to come out and vote for David Perdue and myself because of what's in stake at this election.”

The reporter asking the question followed up by asking her to clarify if she thinks the election was rigged. Again, Loeffler didn’t give a clear answer but instead said, “it's very clear that there were issues in this election.”

Later on in the debate, Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock told Loeffler that it is time to put claims of election fraud "behind us" and focus on the concerns of "ordinary people."

"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," Warnock said.

Remember: There has been no evidence of widespread election fraud. Biden won Georgia by more than 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the Peach State in nearly three decades.

Kemp certified the results of Biden's victory on Nov. 20, following a statewide audit, which included a hand-count of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in the election.

9:47 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Loeffler repeatedly paints opponent as "radical liberal" who is "out of step with Georgia's values"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

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Georgia's incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler began tonight's debate by repeatedly seeking to portray her Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, as a radical who has little place in the Peach State's politics.

Just moments into the debate, Loeffler referred to the reverend as "radical liberal Raphael Warnock" and accused him of a number of statements and behaviors he has denied. 

"The Democrats want to fundamentally change America and the agent of change is my opponent, radical liberal Raphael Warnock," she said.

"That's not what Georgians need to get through this pandemic and get our economy going," she added. "I'm fighting for the American Dream every day."

Just moments later, she again called Warnock "radical" and said she was out to stop him.

"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," she said. "He's out of step with Georgia's values."

Watch the moment:

9:44 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Warnock: I'm fighting for kids like me so they have access to the American Dream

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

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Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock in his opening remarks drew a contrast between his experience and the American Dream.

"We have to make sure that we center ordinary people in all the policy we do," Warnock said.

"Here's a kid who grew up in public housing. I'm running for the United States Senate against the wealthiest member of Congress. Only in America is that possible. And I'm fighting to make sure kids like me, whether they're growing up in public housing down in Savannah, Georgia, or rural disaffected communities in north Georgia that they have access to the American Dream that I believe so much in," Warnock said.

Warnock added that he's concerned that Washington is not focused on ordinary people.

"You can't tell the difference between Washington back rooms and corporate boardrooms. My opponent represents the worst of that kind of problem," he said.

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9:44 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

The debate has begun

From CNN's Josiah Ryan and Devan Cole

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Georgia's incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, are debating now in Atlanta ahead of the key Jan. 5 runoff election. 

In this debate, the moderator will provide opening statements for the candidates, according to the Atlanta Press Club. The debate is divided into three rounds, with the first one involving each candidate being asked at least one question by a panelist.

In the second round, the candidates will be allowed to ask their opponents at least one question, with time for a rebuttal. The third round involves panelists taking turns asking a question to a candidate of their choice until time runs out.

The debate is streaming live here on CNNgo and on CNN.com's homepage and across mobile devices via CNN's apps for iOS and Android with a log-in to a cable provider.

9:43 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

The Georgia Senate debate is about to kick off. Here are key things to know.

From CNN's Devan Cole

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With all eyes on Georgia's two runoff elections that will determine the balance of power in the Senate, two of the candidates are set to debate each other on Sunday evening and get the opportunity to present their case weeks before the contests take place.

Here's what you need to know about tonight's face-off:

  • Who is debating?: Incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, have both accepted invitations from the Atlanta Press Club to participate in the debate at 7 p.m. ET tonight. While the other Republican candidate, incumbent Sen. David Perdue, declined his invitation to face-off against Democrat Jon Ossoff, his Democratic challenger accepted his invite and appeared next to an empty podium at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, per the debate's rules.
  • Who are the moderators?: The debate will be moderated by WAGA-TV/Fox5 anchor Russ Spencer, according to the Atlanta Press Club, which said Greg Bluestein, a political reporter with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Lisa Rayam, a host and senior producer at WABE Radio, will be panelists.
  • What is the format of the debate? The moderator will provide opening statements for the candidates, according to the Atlanta Press Club. The debate will be divided into three rounds, with the first one involving each candidate being asked at least one question by a panelist. In the second round, the candidates will be allowed to ask their opponents at least one question, with time for a rebuttal. The third round involves panelists taking turns asking a question to a candidate of their choice until time runs out.
  • Where is the debate taking place? The debate will take place at Georgia Public Broadcasting's studios in Atlanta.
  • How many days until the runoff election?: There are 30 days between Sunday and the runoff elections, which take place on January 5.
6:51 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Asian Americans have become a key part of the Georgia runoff strategy

From CNN's Caroline Kenny, Kyung Lah and Kimberly Berryman

The homeowner in Duluth, Georgia, opened her screen door and softly said, "I'm not good at English." The two volunteers, clutching clipboards and political fliers, were on the Korean woman's porch to talk about the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.

"I speak some Korean," said Grace Pai, in Korean. "It's terrible," Pai added in broken Korean. Pai explained how she and her fellow volunteer, Syed Hussain, were canvassing houses for the Asian American Advocacy Fund to talk to Asian American voters for Democratic challengers in the runoffs.

"My mother immigrated to the US from Korea as a girl," explained Pai. The homeowner, delighted to hear her native language, explained to the canvassers how much affordable health care meant to her family.

Pai pressed the woman to send her absentee ballot in by mail for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.

As Pai and Hussain left the woman's porch, the homeowner pumped her fist in the air, promising she would.

Conversations like these are key for volunteers who believe the only chance to flip the two Republican Senate seats in Georgia to the Democrats is through broad based coalitions, which includes Asian Americans.

In the state where President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Trump by just 12,284 votes in November, activists say there's little question the surge in Asian American voters helped flip the state in November.

They just have to reach them.

"There are so many people like that woman, Asian American voters who have never been asked about their political beliefs, who have never been asked why voting is important to them," Pai said. "I think this tailored outreach means a lot."

"It's counties like this, at least in my view, that gave Joe Biden that win," said Hussain, 21. The college student grew up in Gwinnett County, which has seen Korean immigrants drive the growth of Asian Americans in the Atlanta suburbs.

Across the entire Atlanta metro area, the Asian American and Pacific Islander electorate has grown significantly in recent years — mirroring the trend of the increasing and diversifying population across the state — specifically in and around the capital city of Atlanta.

While AAPIs are a small share of the electorate in Georgia, the number of Asian American voters grew seven times as much as other racial and ethnic groups combined.