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FOX 5 Atlanta anchor Russ Spencer will serve as moderator for the debate this Sunday between Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic challenger in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff, Raphael Warnock, announced the Atlanta Press Club (APC).
The APC, which made the announcement Monday night, also said that Lisa Rayam, Atlanta NPR “Morning Edition” host and senior producer, and Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter, will serve as panelists for the affair, which will take place exactly one month before the Georgia runoffs that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2021 and 2022.
The debate between Loeffler and Warnock will be at 7 p.m. and last one hour. It will follow a 5 p.m. debate where Jon Ossoff, the Democratic challenger to Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue in a separate runoff also scheduled for Jan. 5, will likely have the stage to himself. Perdue has refused to debate Ossoff in the runoff after engaging in multiple debates ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.
This combination of photos shows Raphael Warnock, left, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sen. Kelly Loeffler on Nov. 3, 2020, in Atlanta. They will face off in a debate on Dec. 5. (AP Photos)
“In a year when the election of Georgia’s two Senators will determine control of the U.S. Senate, it is vital that voters have this opportunity to hear from all the candidates,” said Atlanta Press Club chair Marylynn Ryan in a statement on the debates
She added: “These debates are an important public service that the Atlanta Press Club is proud to offer to Georgians.”
The debate between Loeffler and Warnock is likely to be the only time that the pair will share a stage ahead of Jan. 5, as Loeffler has not yet agreed to any other debates despite Warnock’s challenge for her to participate in a total of three.
“Sen. Loeffler looks forward to exposing Warnock as the most radically liberal candidate anywhere in the country and hear why he has attacked our police, military, small businesses, Israel and virtually every single voting bloc in the state of Georgia,” Stephen Lawson, Loeffler campaign communications director, said when the campaign committed to the APC debate.
“I hear you’re ready to debate, @Kloeffler,” Warnock said in a tweet at the time. “Assume that means I’ll see you December 6th at the Atlanta Press Club, and twice more so Georgians know who will work for them.”
On Perdue, the APC repeated Monday that its invitation for him to debate Ossoff again remains open, and said “the Atlanta Press Club hopes he will change his mind.” The APC plans to leave a podium empty on its stage to represent Perdue during what will essentially be a question-and-answer session with Ossoff.
“The runoff in Georgia is an extension of the Nov. 3 general election, where 52% of Georgians voted against Jon Ossoff and his radical agenda,” Perdue communications director John Burke has said repeatedly about the debates. “Perdue had a commanding first place win, outpacing Ossoff by over 85,000 votes – in nearly every other state, Perdue would have been reelected already.”
Burke added: “We’ve already had two debates in this election. In each, Ossoff lied repeatedly, and of course the media failed to hold him accountable. He refused to talk about the issues and could not defend his radical socialist agenda.”
Ossoff, meanwhile, has challenged Perdue to six debates.
The debates will be in the Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) studios in Atlanta — GPB is co-hosting the debates along with the Atlanta Press Club.
Republicans have already secured 50 seats in the Senate, meaning that if they win either of the Georgia runoffs they will have a majority for the next two years and a significant say in President-elect Joe Biden’s first-term agenda. But if Democrats win both they will bring the balance of power in the body to an effective 50-50 tie, counting the two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
That would allow Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to break ties on party-line votes, making many of Biden’s legislative priorities more realistic and clearing the way for his executive and judicial appointments to be confirmed even without Republican support.
With the high stakes in Georgia, the runoffs are set to be some of the most expensive two months of non-presidential politics in American history.
As of Monday, the campaigns, political parties and outside groups like PACs had already spent more than $280 million on TV ads, according to AdImpact, a top national ad tracking firm formerly known as Advertising Analytics. That spending is no pace to potentially break half a billion dollars before voters head to the polls.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.