The special senate election debate took place Monday, Oct 19. The debate included many candidates running for the senate seat including the incumbent Kelly Loeffler, Congressman Doug Collins and Reverend Raphael Warnock. The debate also included other candidates further down on polling including Matt Lieberman and Ed Tarver from the Democractic Party and Brian Slowinski from the Libertarian Party. The debate was held completely virtual and streamed through 11-Alive.
The debate was broken up into three rounds. In the first and third rounds, panel members Greg Bluestein from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Lisa Rayam from NPR radio took turns asking candidates specific questions on their policies and campaign focuses.
The second round, however, was the one that caught most people’s attention because it aligned with what many political debates look like, one in which candidates passionately argue over policies and attempt to delegitimize their opponents.
In the second round candidates were each given a turn to ask their opponent a specific question. Ed Tarver started this round off by asking Senator Loeffler about the closures of rural hospitals and why the republicans have not presented their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act as previously stated. Loeffler responded by not actively answering the question, but instead directing her answer to what she has done since the closure of many rural hospitals.
“First of all too many of our rural hospitals have closed,” said Loeffler during the debate. “Seven have closed in the last decade. Two have announced closures. One of my first bills that I had passed as a freshman senator was rural health funding. Another bill that I had passed to help rural families was Telemedicine.”
Afterwards, Tarver explained that he did not feel Loeffler answered the question properly. Loeffler then went to ask Raphael Warnock if he would apologize to police officers for calling them thugs, bullies and gangsters, which was something he previously said in March and November of 2015 while preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
“I have deep respect for police officers and law enforcement, and I believe the senator knows this,” said Warnock in the debate. “This is why they have come to my church on a couple of occasions as they have remembered fallen officers who died in the line of duty. So I support law enforcement, they have come to my church many times, we have worked together. I think it’s possible to appreciate the work that law enforcement officers do and at the same time hold them accountable.”
Warnock then directed his question towards Doug Collins, asking if he would speak out against QAnon and their beliefs. Noting that a firm supporter of QAnon Majorie Taylor Greene, recently endorsed Loeffler. This is when the debate got heated as both Collins, Leoffler and Warnock all tried to prove that they were against such a group. Collins and Leoffler shortly after got into a dispute about who voted alongside President Trump the most. Collins spoke up during the dispute as he was offended by Loeffler’s statement in which she said she has voted in 100% alignment with President Trump and his values.
“She voted for the NDAA which President Trump said he would veto,” said Collins during the debate. “She just voted against the continuing resolution [CR] which the president signed. Doesn’t look like 100% to me senator Loeffler. Maybe your math is wrong or maybe your cue card’s wrong.”
Loeffler then responded to Collins by correcting him on certain aspects of his statements, arguing that Collins was wrong about President Trump’s take on the NDAA.
“President Trump supported the senate version of the NDAA, and he did not put out a remark on the CR,” said Loeffler.
Looking at the facts, Collins was right in his statement that Loeffler voted against the continuing resolution bill back in September. Loeffler voted nay towards this bill alongside nine other senators. By this bill being passed, it avoided a government shutdown at the end of the month. Collins’ statement on the NDAA was true, as Loeffler and Perdue, both the republican senators from Georgia did vote for the NDAA despite President Trump saying he would veto such a bill if the senate version allowed changing of confederate names.
Collins, Loeffler, and Warnock will race against one another on Nov. 3. as citizens vote for who they want to stay in the senate or take place there. Current polling from Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling shows Warnock ahead with an average of 41% while Collins and Loeffler sit neck and neck behind him at roughly 22%. If no candidate receives more than 50% of votes, the top two candidates will race in a runoff election.