For many, the 2020 election is now over and done with. But in the state of Georgia, it’s only just beginning, with two runoffs for seats in the US Senate to decide the balance of power and whether or not the Biden administration will be able to get legislation through Congress.

The runoffs — which will be held on January 5, 2021 — will not only determine which party controls the levers of power in the Senate, it will also determine the political future of the Peach state, which has traditionally been conservative but appears to be shifting in a more progressive direction thanks to the efforts of a new generation of Southern political activists and organizers.

How did Georgia become so competitive? As Ella Nilsen explains in an article for Vox, it has a lot to do with demographics and geography:

“’Counties and suburbs of Atlanta are moving at light speed away from Republicans,’ said Cook Political Report Senate editor Jessica Taylor, who rates both Georgia races as toss-ups. ‘Trump has accelerated a more natural evolution, but that has made it hard.’

“Atlanta’s diversifying suburbs were already worrisome for Republicans before 2020, but they appear to be the epicenter of Democratic strength this year. The GOP is also watching as existing trends are being hastened by a combination of white suburban voters moving away from Trump and increased turnout among Black voters.

“The metro Atlanta area is booming, and a lot of people moving there are young and diverse. Increasingly, they’re voting Democratic.”

Perdue vs. Ossoff

Incumbent GOP Senator David Perdue is facing an uphill battle against Jon Ossoff who is making a name for himself as a hard-charging activist who destroyed Perdue in a contentious debate weeks before the election was held. In that debate, Ossoff accused Perdue of being crooked, remarking:

“It’s not just that you’re a crook, senator. It’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent. You did say COVID-19 was no deadlier than the flu. You did say there would be no significant uptick in cases. All the while, you were looking after your own assets and your own portfolio. And you did vote four times to end protections for preexisting conditions. Four times.”

Loeffler vs. Warnock

In what’s known as a “jungle primary” that featured over 20 candidates, incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler actually came in second to Reverend Raphael Warnock, a rising star in the Democratic party who is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the same church that was once pastored by the late civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Much like Ossoff, Warnock is also focusing on the issue of health care as the main issue of his campaign, and that has the Georgia Republicans on the defensive, because both have expressed their desire to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

With COVID-19 continuing to rage across the country, a message of health and safety could well be a popular one with voters, The Hill notes:

“’Health care has always been a big issue, but now that you’ve got ObamaCare going to the Supreme Court, and it’s such an important problem for so many people, especially given COVID. I think it’s absolutely resonating in Georgia,’ said Stefan Turkheimer, a Democratic strategist in the state.”

At the end of the day, however, the election will hinge on turnout, which has been a problem for Georgia Democrats in the past:

“While Democrats have a bad history with runoffs in Georgia, Turkheimer, who worked for a Senate campaign that lost a runoff in 2008, said this time is different, because the national party is pouring more money and attention to the race, and voters feel more motivated than ever.

“’There is a not-so-great history of Georgia runoffs… It created a narrative that Democrats in Georgia don’t show up for runoffs. That’s been the conventional wisdom. I think that’s going to change now.'”

If both Ossoff and Warnock manage to win, that would give the Senate 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, but control of the upper chamber would belong to Democrats since Vice President Kamala Harris could break any tie votes, meaning Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would no longer be majority leader. That alone may wind up being all the motivation Democrats in Georgia need to energize them for the upcoming runoffs.

Featured Image Via NBC News