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Happy New Year.
I knew it would be a significant week. The big event was Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia because the races were winner-take-all, and the results set to determine the shape of government and the direction of federal policy for the next two years. The other event – Wednesday’s Congressional certification of the electoral college results – is typically ceremonial. A great number of speeches were planned and there were certainly questions about how Vice President Pence would handle his function, but we knew how the story would end. What I didn’t know was what would happen before the Presidential election results were certified.
I had planned an extensive discussion and analysis of the Georgia results for a future This Week. I really did not anticipate needing to comment much about the Congressional certification process of November’s election. But everything changes everything, and the combination of Republicans’ double loss in Georgia, the riots at the Capitol, and then Congress coming together to finally certify Joe Biden as our next President captured America’s attention.
There is plenty of time to think about everything that occurred this week, and about what comes next. I want to focus on what I heard in Georgia this week, and what I saw Wednesday in Washington.
Democracy in action, Democracy in meltdown, and Democracy restored.
Steve Gordon, Managing Partner
Heard on the Hill
By Steve Gordon, Total Spectrum Managing Partner
Georgia Runoffs — Democracy in Action
Republicans hoped that Senator David Perdue would win reelection in November. They were a little disappointed that he did not win by the required majority, but they were very optimistic that he would win reelection in January’s runoff.
David Perdue won the Senate seat in 2014 by defeating Michelle Nunn, daughter of former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, by getting 52.9% of the vote while Ms. Nunn got 45.2%. This year’s general election pitted Senator Perdue against investigative journalist Jon Ossoff. Senator Perdue got 49.7% and Jon Ossoff received 47.9% of the vote in November, and a libertarian candidate got 2.3%, but state law mandates that the victor receive 50.1% – a simple majority of the vote. It was easy to presume that most of the libertarian vote from November would go to Senator Perdue in the runoff.
The presumption was wrong. Senator Perdue received 2,462,617 votes in November against Jon Ossoff. But in this week’s runoff, Senator Perdue received 2,204,574 votes, nearly 260,000 fewer than in November’s general election.
Long-time Senator Johnny Isakson announced last August that he would retire from the U.S. Senate at the end of 2019 for health reasons. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp considered a great number of candidates, and then announced on December 4, 2019 that Kelly Loeffler would replace Senator Isakson effective January 1, 2020 and would stand for reelection in November.
Ms. Loeffler comes from a grain farm family. She is an entrepreneur who owns a technology firm and a WNBA franchise. Her husband is Jeffrey Specter, who is the CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, which owns the New York Stock Exchange.
A great number of candidates ran in November’s jungle primary, including Loeffler, Republican Congressman Doug Collins, and Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Reverend Warnock received 1,617,035 votes (33%), Kelly Loeffler received 1,273,214 votes (26%), and Congressman Collins received 980,454 votes (20%).
The top two candidates – Loeffler and Warnock – advanced to the January 5th runoff. Republicans had high hopes that they could add Collins’ vote total to Loeffler’s votes, expand the get out the vote effort, and win this Senate race – but that did not happen. Mr. Warnock received 2,260,290 votes and Senator Loeffler received 2,185,679 votes in this week’s runoff.
Premise of both campaigns
It was a classic base election. The party that gets out more of its base wins.
Who and what impacted Tuesday’s elections
Stacey Abrams: Georgia lawyer, former member and former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. Lost to Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and then created Fair Fight, which organized, registered, and motivated Georgia’s Black vote.
Democrats were united. Republicans were divided. President Trump has been quarreling with Governor Kemp almost all year, and the Georgia’s Republican base was whipsawed by the conflicting messages coming from the Governor and the President. The President’s attacks on Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – a Republican – were distracting and off-putting to swing voters.
Mob Rule at the Capitol – Democracy in Meltdown
We had heard for a while about a planned march by pro-Trump supporters planned for yesterday. But there have been a fair number of pro-Trump marches of late, so I did not give this march the attention it deserved.
President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn spoke to the demonstrators. Mr. Giuliani called for ‘a trial by combat’ – and the fuse was lit. Demonstrators became a mob. They stormed the Capitol, walked over and through barricades, climbed walls, smashed windows and doors, stood on scaffolding, and made their way into the building. Pipe bombs were discovered and dismantled without incident outside the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. ABC News is reporting that 4 people were killed, including a woman who was shot by Capitol police.
It used to be that security in Washington’s federal buildings and even the Capitol was light. But in 1998, a shooter entered the Capitol and killed two U.S. Capitol police officers. Then 9/11 took security to a whole new level.
I have dealt with the Capitol Police for years, and they are exceptionally effective and professional. Why the Capitol Hill Police were not ready for the mob will surely be investigated, but they appeared to be ill-prepared for the size of the crowd and outmanned, and other government security agencies apparently were not contacted. Vice President Pence called out the National Guard late in the afternoon and the Capitol was back under control around 7 PM.
Some called it an insurrection –a violent uprising against authority. I prefer to call it a meltdown caused by overheated political speech.
Speaker Pelosi said the Sergeant at Arms of the House will be fired, and Senator Schumer said he would fire the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate when the Senator becomes the Majority Leader.
The Certification of November’s election – Democracy Restored
Congress has only a ceremonial role in the certification of the electoral college votes. The Vice President usually sits as the President of the Senate and declares the winner of the election. This year’s session included planned objections from Republican Senators and Congressmen over alleged state election irregularities in Arizona and other states.
Majority Leader McConnell opened the Senate proceedings by saying it was time to close the book on the November Presidential election. “The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken… The Constitution gives Congress a limited role. We cannot simply declare ourselves a national Board of Elections on steroids.”
The deliberations continued at 10:00 PM after the Capitol was secured. The Majority Leader opened the session by saying that “[t]he United States will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs, or threats… We will discharge our duty under the Constitution for our nation. And we are going to do it tonight.”
The mob made an impression on Congress. A certification process that was to take almost two days concluded after about six hours. Around 4 am Thursday, Vice President Pence declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 Presidential election.
This e-newsletter is produced by Total Spectrum/Steve Gordon and Associates and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The views expressed herein may include subjective commentary and analysis that are the views of the editors and authors alone. Information in this e-newsletter is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but that cannot be guaranteed as independently investigated or verified. Information in this e-newsletter is not an endorsement, advertisement, recommendation, or any type of advice; political, legal, financial or otherwise. For questions about the content of this e-newsletter, please contact the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.