The final count from Georgia is still trickling in, but the result of one hotly contested race is confirmed: It’s Kelly Loeffler and Raphael Warnock going to the runoff for the hot mess of a special election for Senator. Loeffler won her deathmatch with Republican challenger Doug Collins over who could be the most down-home, Commie-hating, Trump-loving, hardcore conservative; between the two of them they netted more than 40 percent of the electorate. Whew!
Of course, Loeffler’s race wasn’t the only tight, high-profile Georgia Senate contest this year. Jon Ossoff raised millions of dollars to mount an expensive challenge against Republican incumbent David Perdue, who distinguished himself this election by mocking Kamala Harris’s name while introducing Donald Trump at a rally and running a Facebook ad that appeared to enlarge Ossoff’s nose in a pretty blatantly anti-Semitic trope. (His campaign said it was an accident.) Perdue led in the initial returns, but Ossoff clawed his way back via the same mail-in ballots that shifted the state from Trump to Biden over the course of the count. Perdue didn’t quite reach 50 percent, and so they’ll return to the ballot box for a runoff the same day as Loeffler.
But it was the special election that was the real three-ring circus. The race was to fill the seat vacated by longtime Senator Johnny Isakson when he resigned for health reasons. Kelly Loeffler—an extremely wealthy Atlanta socialite and Republican campaign donor with a Buckhead mansion called “Descante” and an admittedly incredible blonde blowout—was appointed to the slot temporarily in January 2020. Originally from Indiana, she’s married to Jeff Sprecher, founder and CEO of IntercontinentalExchange, which is now the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange. In other words, she looked like a classic wealthy business Republican; basically, Kemp picked her on the theory that she’d appeal to the much-ballyhooed women of the Atlanta suburbs.
But the deranged dynamics of the special election for her seat quickly turned the race into a complete mess. No primary meant no winnowing, creating a race with scads of candidates, any of whom could win if they reached 50 percent of votes. And so Buckhead doyenne Loeffler found herself mudwrestling her leading Republican competitor, Congressman Doug Collins, in a contest to prove who was a bigger Trump acolyte. Trump liked Collins, because he was a big defender of the president during the impeachment proceedings. But Loeffler was bound and determined to give Collins a run for his money. And so the race to the bottom was on! Loeffler called Black Lives Matter a Marxist organization; Collins hollered about how Loeffler had a Warhol print of Chairman Mao in her fancy mansion. Loeffler released a racist ad bragging about being to the right of Attila the Hun; Collins responded that Atilla the Hun was a “globalist” who practiced “post-natal abortion.” Loeffler got an endorsement from QAnon candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene; Collins got an endorsement from Michael Flynn.
The New York Times says that this transformation is raising some questions around Loeffler’s neighborhood: “In and around Buckhead, a version of the same question has been discreetly raised among some members of the senator’s social circle: What happened to Kelly Loeffler?” Seems like a pretty simple case of a bottomless lust for power and a lack of sincere convictions—or convictions that are just bad—but I’m no psychiatrist.
Meanwhile, the leading Democratic contender, Raphael Warnock—senior pastor at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, best known as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church—was fending off his own stubborn contenders sucking up votes, including Joe Lieberman’s son. At any rate, Collins conceded, meaning that Warnock and Loeffler are going on to a runoff, where it will be very interesting to see if Loeffler suddenly tries to reverse course and remake herself yet again as somewhat more moderate—well, in comparison to accepting the endorsement of a QAnon candidate, that is.
Warnock, for his part, has launched a preemptive strike against all the negative attack ads sure to be coming his way, assuring Georgians that no matter what Loeffler might say, he does in fact love puppies. Mark your calendars for January 5th; we’re not done feeling like we’re all tripping balls just quite yet!