- Adam Shamsi
The Senate Comes Down To Georgia: David Perdue vs Jon Ossoff
This article is part of a two-part series (1/2).
After a long, cumbersome election cycle, all eyes have shifted to Georgia. Currently, the upcoming Senate is 50-48 in favor of the Republicans. The two Senate seats that are still up for grabs both lie in Georgia.
In a Senate race between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, neither candidate received a majority of the votes, resulting in a runoff election. The election, which will take place on Jan. 5, is a direct reflection of Georgia’s shifting demographics.
In 2016, only 45.3% of Georgians voted for the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whereas an estimated 49.52% of Georgians voted for the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2020 (a difference of about 600,000 votes).
The question now is whether the shift was purely an anti-Trump sentiment or if the wave of new Democratic voters will stand in the Senate runoff election. Examining the differences between the two Senate candidates’ backgrounds and platforms will shine a light on what decision Georgians have to make.
David Perdue’s background:
David Perdue was born in Macon, Ga. on Dec. 12, 1949. After high school, Perdue attended Georgia Tech, where he earned a degree in industrial engineering and a master’s in operations research.
His corporate career began when Perdue was employed by Kurt Salmon Associates, where he worked closely with dozens of companies to improve their products and expand their operations.
Perdue went on to hold multiple major corporate positions, including CEO titles at Reebok, Pillowtex and Dollar General. In 2014, Perdue decided to run for the U.S. Senate with no prior political experience.
He ran as an outsider candidate and used his corporate experience as proof he could increase job opportunities and lower the country’s unemployment deficit. His 2014 campaign also prominently featured his anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and anti-Obamacare sentiments.
After defeating his Democratic opponent Michelle Nunn, Perdue took office. During his tenure, Perdue served on the Armed Services, Banking, Budget and Foreign Relations committees.
Perdue supported legislation that banned same-sex marriage and banned abortions. Perdue was instrumental in passing conservative legislation such as President Donald Trump’s tax cuts in 2017. Additionally, as a fellow outsider, he was an early supporter of Trump and subsequently became one of his biggest allies in the Senate.
David Perdue’s 2020 platform:
COVID-19: Supports increasing funds to schools so they can make education more accessible to remote students and safer for in-person students.
Policing: Opposes defunding the police and supports passing legislation like the JUSTICE Act, which aims to increase transparency and accountability in the policing system through the use of grant money for body cameras and de-escalation training.
Immigration: Perdue wants to “close loopholes in our immigration law that allow dangerous criminals to enter our country,” and instead intake immigrants on a merit-based system.
Education: Allow “school choice” by giving students vouchers to get to private or charter schools.
Term limits: Perdue wants to implement term limits and has said himself he would only serve for two terms.
Criticisms of David Perdue:
Perdue has been accused of insider trading. On Jan. 24, Congress received a classified briefing on COVID-19. On that same day, Perdue invested in DuPont de Nemours, a chemical company that produces personal protective equipment.
Perdue’s financial portfolio disclosure revealed he made 82 transactions on March 3rd (worth over $1.8 million). His activity in the stock market for the month of March was three times higher than it was two years ago.
This activity contradicts his public statements about COVID-19. In May, Perdue downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19, saying it is not as bad an “ordinary flu season."
Furthermore, Perdue’s opponents continuously criticize his stance on protecting the health insurance of people with pre-existing conditions. On his campaign website, Perdue states he wants to protect people with pre-existing conditions.
However, his voting record tells a different story. In 2015 and 2017, Perdue voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He supported the failed Protect Act, which sought to replace the ACA. The Protect Act does forbid insurance companies from denying people health insurance because of “any pre-existing conditions.”
Though, it left open the possibility for insurance companies to deny services to anyone for which they “will not have the capacity to deliver services adequately.” Which gives them a loophole to deny people with pre-existing conditions.
After Trump failed to win re-elected, including his loss in Georgia, Perdue has come under even more scrutiny. Perdue called on Georgia’s Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger to resign, accusing him of failing “to deliver honest and transparent elections.”
Raffensperger rejected Perdue’s call, saying “the voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me.” Perdue’s loyalty to the president may have been what failed to get him over the 50% threshold.
Jon Ossoff’s background:
Jon Ossoff was born in Atlanta, Georgia on Feb. 16, 1987. He attended Paideia, an elite private school in Atlanta. During high school, he interned for civil rights leader John Lewis.
He then attended Georgetown University, where he earned a degree from its School of Foreign Service. He continued his educational journey by getting a master’s of science from the London School of Economics.
Afterward, Ossoff worked for Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, handling information dealing with defense, foreign affairs, intelligence and economic policy. In 2012, Ossoff pursued a career in journalism. He became the CEO of an investigative television production company called Insight TWI.
After 5 years, Ossoff decided to return to public service by running to be the House representative for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in 2017, where he had grown up. The race quickly became the most expensive House race in American history, costing a combined total of $48 million.
Ossoff narrowly lost to Republican Karen Handel.
Jon Ossoff’s 2020 platform:
Health care: Health care is one of Ossoff’s first priorities. Ossoff wants to expand Medicaid, prevent price gouging and increase federal investment in health clinics. He also wants to add a nonprofit public option to the ACA exchange.
Economy: Create jobs by investing in “the most ambitious infrastructure program in history.” He also advocates for limiting trade with overseas competitors that “disadvantage American workers and businesses” by using unfair labor practices.
Environment: Re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement. He also calls for a slew of environmental protections such as prevention of single-use plastics, treaties to protect oceans and fisheries, protection of endangered species and habitats, increased fines for oil spills and control on other toxic chemicals.
Criminal justice: Reverse the militarization of police, ban cash bail, abolish the death penalty, legalize cannabis and end incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses. He advocates for more funding for law enforcement to deal with “organized crime, human trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, fraud, espionage, and corruption”.
Criticisms of Jon Ossoff:
Ossoff’s time as CEO of Insight TWI is what has opened him up to scrutiny. While Ossoff was CEO, Chinese Conglomerate PCCW Media Limited gave Ossoff $5,000’s worth of compensation. PCCW is a large telecom agency in Hong Kong that is known to have anti-democracy views.
Ossoff’s willingness to accept contributions from an anti-democratic agency may be indicative of his support, or lack thereof, for harsh legislation against China. A spokesperson for Ossoff’s campaign has said Ossoff strongly supports Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and “condemns the brutality and authoritarianism.”
They said the $5,000 came when Ossoff’s company aired two investigations of “ISIS war crimes against women and girls.” In this case, the revenue allegedly came as a byproduct of airing the piece on the PCCW network and is not a direct endorsement of his beliefs.
Another criticism of Ossoff is his age. Ossoff is only 33 years old, and many fear his inexperience will hinder his performance. Admittedly, Ossoff has more experience working in the public sector than Perdue did prior to his 2015 inauguration.
However, it is not his experience that his opponents criticize so much as he is “not serious.” In an ad paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund, several of Ossoff’s college videos are clipped together, showing him acting in a child-like manner.
Ultimately, the criticism that sticks to Ossoff the most is simply the policies he proposes. Perdue has gone after Ossoff time and time again for his “radical, socialist agenda.” Ossoff’s climate plans, infrastructure, and criminal justice ideas are far more progressive than those of any previous Georgia senator.
With control for the Senate at stake, Georgians have to make a decision between conservatism and progressivism. Whatever, the result of the election may be, it will have a significant impact on the Biden-Harris administration’s ability to appoint Cabinet members, appoint judges and pass legislation.