Who are Jon Ossoff and David Perdue?

Who are Jon Ossoff and David Perdue?
Source: Marvin Gentry, Reuters
Here’s what you need to know about Jon Ossoff and Senator David Perdue before their January 5 runoff election.

While President Donald Trump continues to deny the results of the presidential election, two Senate races in Georgia are still up in the air and, with them, control of the Senate for the next legislative term. On January 5, 2021, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will face off in their respective races against incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

Due to a state-specific rule, candidates for the Senate in Georgia must attain a majority of the vote to win the election. It is a testament to how contentious this election year was that both Senate races in the traditionally Republican state did not end in any candidate attaining 50% or more of the vote.

It is unusual for both Senate seats in a state to be up for election in the same year, but Loeffler was only appointed to her seat in January after Senator Johnny Isakson announced his retirement at the end of 2019. Loeffler, who has faced accusations that she profited off of insider information about the COVID-19 pandemic, looks to have an uphill battle against Warnock in January.

The January contest between Ossoff and Perdue is currently expected to be much closer, with Perdue slightly favored in polling. Their November 3 contest was quite close, with Perdue missing the 50% threshold by only .3%. Ossoff received 48%, while a Libertarian candidate, Shane Hazel, received 2.3%. In the runoff election, only the top two candidates compete.

If both Warnock and Ossoff win their races, it will split the Senate 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats (two independent senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, caucus with the Democrats). When ties occur in the Senate, the vice president votes, meaning Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would give Democrats the majority in the chamber.

Here’s what you need to know about Jon Ossoff and Senator David Perdue before their January 5 runoff election.

Who is Jon Ossoff?

Jon Ossoff was born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised nearby. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a Master of Science degree at the London School of Economics.

While Ossoff was attending Georgetown, he also served as a staff member for House Representative Hank Johnson. Ossoff has said he spent five years as a national security staffer for Johnson, though that includes working as a junior staff member until his 2009 graduation from Georgetown. In 2010, he was chosen to lead Johnson’s successful reelection campaign.

In 2012, Ossoff left government work to pursue a career in investigative journalism. In 2013, Ossoff took over as chief executive officer of Insight TWI, a media production company that has investigated war crimes, sex slavery, trafficking and governmental bribery, among other topics.

In 2017, Ossoff launched a campaign for a House seat in a heavily Republican district. He received 48.1% of the vote against a crowded field of Republican challengers that April, forcing a runoff election against a Republican, Karen Handel, in June. In what ended up becoming the most expensive House race in history up to that point, Handel defeated Ossoff.

Despite the loss, Ossoff, who received endorsements from Johnson and the late Representative John Lewis, was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party.

Ossoff is married to Dr. Alisha Kramer, an obstetrician and gynecologist who also grew up in Atlanta and studied at both Georgetown University and the London School of Economics. She received her medical degree from Emory University.

Who is David Perdue?

Senator Perdue was born in Macon, Georgia and grew up in Warner Robins, located in central Georgia. After graduating from high school, Perdue completed a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1972. In 1975, he completed his master’s degree there as well.

Perdue spent the next four decades in the private sector, working for a variety of businesses. By 1992, he had risen up the ranks to become senior vice president of operations at Sara Lee Corporation, the Illinois-based consumer goods company. He would later hold top positions at Haggar Inc., Reebok, Dollar General and other major corporations.

In 2011, he co-founded Perdue Partners, LLC, a global trading consulting company. When Perdue launched a campaign for Senate in 2014, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that his long business career was marked by bankruptcies and accusations that he had “lined his own pockets as part of a leveraged buyout deal, shortchanging shareholders.”

Nonetheless, Perdue won his race, helping switch control of the Senate to Republicans in that election.

Perdue and his wife of 40 years, Bonnie, have two sons together. Bonnie was formerly a public school teacher.

The runoff between Ossoff and Perdue

In the lead up to the November 3 election, Ossoff and Perdue were scheduled to have three debates. However, after the second debate, Perdue decided to skip the final debate and attend a rally with Trump.

During the second livestreamed debate on October 28, a heated exchange between Ossoff and Perdue became a viral clip. After Perdue accused Ossoff of supporting a “radical socialist agenda,” Ossoff accused Perdue of being a “crook” and not adequately addressing the coronavirus pandemic:

“Perhaps Senator Perdue would have been able to respond properly to the COVID-19 pandemic if you hadn’t been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading. It’s not just that you’re a crook, senator, it’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent … All the while, you were looking after your own assets and your own portfolio.”

Like Senator Loeffler, Perdue has been accused of using insider information to illegally profit in the stock market.

It appears the “crook” label will continue to be Ossoff’s go-to line of attack for Perdue as they approach the runoff election. After Perdue once again declined an offer to debate Ossoff, the Democratic challenger tweeted, “David Perdue isn’t just a crook –– he’s a coward, too.”

Whether these taunts and attacks will make a difference in the mind of the electorate is unknown, but it is clear the January 5 election will be closely watched by members of both political parties.

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