What to know about the four Georgia Senate candidates

The nation’s attention has turned to the two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5, which will determine which party controls the Senate. If Republicans maintain both seats, they will hold onto their majority. But if Democrats win both seats it will give them a slim 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting any tie-breaking vote.

GOP Senator David Perdue is up for reelection this year, and he is is facing off against former documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff, who unsuccessfully ran for an Atlanta-area House seat in 2017. Under Georgia state law, any election where neither candidate receives above 50% of the vote must advance to a runoff. Perdue narrowly defeated Ossoff on Election Day, but just fell short of the 50% mark.

Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat last year, faced 20 other candidates in a special election in November, including Reverend Raphael Warnock. Loeffler and Warnock were the top two vote-getting candidates, and so their race also advanced to a runoff.

Here is a rundown of what to know about the four contenders for Georgia’s two seats:

Kelly Loeffler

Loeffler took office in January, after Governor Brian Kemp appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired due to health issues. She wasn’t President Trump’s first choice for the seat; he reportedly preferred Congressman Doug Collins, an ally in the House who went on to join the field of candidates who challenged Loeffler in the special election.

In the Senate, Loeffler has been a staunch supporter of the president. She and Perdue have both backed  Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the presidential election, which he still has not conceded, despite a succession of failed lawsuits and the votes this week by the Electoral College confirming Joe Biden’s victory.

She is currently the wealthiest senator in the Capitol — she and her husband boast a net worth of $800 million, according to Forbes. Earlier this year, the Senate Ethics Committee investigated whether she engaged in insider trading before the coronavirus pandemic roiled the financial markets, but dismissed its probe in June .

Loeffler was born and raised in Illinois, and received her undergraduate degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her master in business administration from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business in 1999.

She worked for several companies before joining Intercontinental Exchange, and married the firm’s CEO, Jeffrey Sprecher, in 2004. She became CEO of bakkt, a subsidiary of the company, in 2018. Loeffler is also the owner of a WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream, which she bought in 2011.

Jon Ossoff

In 2017, Ossoff ran for a House seat in Georgia vacated by Congressman Tom Price, who had been named secretary of Health and Human Services. His race against Republican Karen Handel was the most expensive House race in history up to that point. Ossoff narrowly lost to Handel, who was then defeated in 2018 by Democrat Lucy McBath.

Now 33 years old, he was born and raised in Atlanta and interned for the late Congressman John Lewis when he was a high school student. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and London School of Economics.

Ossoff worked as a national security staffer for Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson for five years before leaving in 2012 to get his master’s degree. Since 2013, he has been the managing director and CEO of an investigative television production company, Insight TWI, which is based in London.

He is married to Alisha Kramer, an obstetrics and gynecology resident at Emory University.

David Perdue

Perdue was elected to the Senate in 2014, running on his long record as a businessman, with stints in the technology and retail sectors. In recent months, he has come under fire for selling and buying stocks throughout the coronavirus pandemic, although he has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Senate Ethics Committee. Ossoff has criticized Perdue’s stock trades, calling him a “crook.”

Perdue was born and raised in Georgia, and attended the U.S. Air Force Academy before transferring to Georgia Tech. His first cousin is Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Georgia and the secretary of agriculture under President Trump.

Perdue joined Reebok as senior vice president in 1998, later becoming president and CEO of the brand. He left in 2002 to become CEO of PillowTex, but only worked there for nine months, and the company closed several months after his departure. Perdue then became CEO of Dollar General. In 2011, he started Perdue Partners, an Atlanta-based global trading firm, with his cousin Sonny Perdue. He also served on the board of Atlanta-based financial technology firm Cardlytics from 2010 to 2014.

Perdue married his wife, Bonnie, in 1972, and they have two sons.

Raphael Warnock

Warnock has been active in local politics, and previously considered running for Senate in 2016. He chaired the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan organization focused on voter registration, from 2017 to January 2020. Warnock has been criticized by Loeffler for his previous support for controversial Black pastor Jeremiah Wright.

Warnock, the 11th of 12 children, was born in Savannah, raised in public housing by his parents, both Pentecostal pastors. He attended Morehouse College, and then earned a Master of Divinity, Master of Philosophy, and Doctor of Philosophy from Union Theological Seminary.

Warnock then served as a youth pastor and assistant pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church before becoming senior pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore. In 2005, he became senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr.’s former congregation.

Warnock is divorced, and has two children.