ATLANTA — Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff met in Savannah for their second debate Wednesday night in a bitter race in which both sides have flooded the airwaves with attack ads.
The contest, which polls indicate is extremely close, could have national implications over which party controls the Senate, with Democrats hoping Ossoff could give their party their first Senate win in Georgia since 2000.
Libertarian Shane Hazel is also on the ballot, raising the potential that Ossoff and Perdue will head to overtime in the form of a Jan. 5 runoff — required if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in November.
The candidates sparred over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Republican efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act and the recent confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The first debate in the race, held Oct. 12, took place virtually with candidates joining from separate locations because of the pandemic. Wednesday night’s event was the first debate of the race where the candidates met in person.
The first debate largely mirrored the ads that have blanketed TV airwaves in recent weeks, with Ossoff hammering Perdue on his response to the coronavirus pandemic and Perdue accusing Ossoff of backing a “radical socialist agenda” — an assertion he sometimes backed with false claims.
In the first debate, Ossoff said Perdue has enabled President Donald Trump “in a pandemic response that everybody from all parties knows has been a disaster.” Perdue called Ossoff’s remarks “idle chatter” while defending the federal response. “What we really did is we brought help to the people of Georgia, both in the hospitals, schools, communities and in the workplace,” Perdue said.
Perdue, 70, is a former business executive seeking his second term in the Senate. Ossoff, 33, heads a media company that investigates crime and corruption for news organizations. Hazel is a Marine Corps veteran and podcast host.
“If you’re tired of what you’re seeing here between politicians, you’ve got a choice,” Hazel said of the back and forth between Perdue and Ossoff in the first debate.
Voting is already underway in Georgia and record numbers of people have cast a ballot early.
Held by WTOC-TV, the debate was initially scheduled for Oct. 19 but was postponed so Perdue could return to Washington for a procedural vote on GOP-backed coronavirus relief legislation.
Ben Nadler, The Associated Press