ATLANTA (CN) — Three weeks before a pair of Georgia runoff elections decides control of the Senate, President-elect Joe Biden made a trip to Atlanta on Tuesday to campaign for Democratic hopefuls Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff at a drive-in rally.
The outcome of the Jan. 5 election will determine which party will hold the Senate majority when Biden takes office next month and begins pushing his agenda.
A record turnout of 168,000 Georgia voters cast their ballots on the first day of early voting Monday, the same day the Electoral College confirmed Biden’s win over President Donald Trump. Georgia awarded Biden all its 16 electoral votes, as he was the first Democrat to carry the Peach State since Bill Clinton in 1992.
“You all did something extraordinary in November,” Biden said at the rally in Atlanta’s Pullman Train Yard, inciting honks and cheers from supporters. “You voted in record numbers. You voted to improve the lives of every Georgian, and you voted as if your life depended on it. Well guess what? Now you’re going to have to do it again.”
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams livened the crowd with fiery remarks to open the rally. The Democrat, who registered hundreds of thousands of Georgians to vote after her narrow loss in the 2018 gubernatorial election, was called a “hero” by Biden.
The runoffs became necessary after all four Senate candidates failed to receive 50% of the vote on Election Day. Incumbent Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have been painting Warnock and Ossoff, their respective opponents, as “radical liberals” in attack ads.
Ossoff took aim at Perdue and Loeffler on Tuesday for their inaction on economic relief legislation for those who have lost their jobs and businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“How is it that right now, in the midst of this crisis, our senators are not at work passing direct economic relief for the American people and support for small businesses?” Ossoff said. “David and Kelly should be in Washington delivering $1,200 checks for every single Georgian and $500 for every child in this state. Because people are hurting, and we need help now.”
Loeffler was appointed to her seat by Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp a year ago after former GOP Senator Johnny Isakson stepped down for health reasons. Warnock pointed to her lack of an election win while criticizing his opponent at the rally.
“She was appointed,” Warnock said. “The people of Georgia are disappointed.”
Warnock spoke of his roots living in public housing in Savannah and Biden later said Warnock’s life was “a story of never giving up on the American dream.” Biden called Ossoff a “fresh voice who will only do the work of the people.”
The president-elect started to cough and lose his voice as he closed his remarks by quoting the late Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis: “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”
On Tuesday evening, the Biden-Harris transition team announced that Biden will nominate former South Bend mayor and Democratic primary rival Pete Buttigieg to serve as his transportation secretary. The news drew praise from the LGBTQ community but displeasure from South Bend’s chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement due to Buttigieg’s handling of the shooting of a Black man by a white police officer.
The former vice president held a pair of rallies in Georgia a week before the presidential election and won the state by a slim margin over Trump, who, after coming up short in the recount he demanded, has resorted to taking unsuccessful legal actions challenging the results in Georgia and other states he narrowly lost.
Even though Trump’s recent appeal to overturn the Peach State’s election results was rejected by the Georgia Supreme Court, the president has continued to accuse Governor Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger of carrying out a fraudulent election.
In a statement released ahead of Tuesday’s rally, the Trump campaign said Warnock and Ossoff “represent the left-most fringe of the Democrat Party.”
“That Joe Biden would campaign for them is further proof that he is utterly in the grip of the extreme left, which is the driving force in today’s Democrat Party,” the outgoing president’s campaign said.