By Dave Williams, Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is threatening to carry Georgia, while Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Jon Ossoff likely will force a runoff against Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue.
President Donald Trump’s lead over Biden in the Peach State had shriveled to just 9,426 votes by late Thursday, with 36,331 votes remaining to be counted statewide.
While Perdue held a much larger advantage over Ossoff – more than 100,000 votes – the one-term incumbent’s share of the vote had fallen to 49.95%, just below the 50%-plus-one margin required under Georgia law to avoid a runoff.
Trump held a huge lead of 372,000 votes over Biden in Georgia at midnight on Election Night. But that margin melted away on Wednesday and Thursday as elections workers continued counting mail-in ballots.
In Georgia and across the country, mail-in voting has been dominated by Democrats wary of waiting in long Election Day lines in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Also, Trump repeatedly cast aspersions at the integrity of the mail-in voting process during campaign rallies and urged his supporters to show up at the polls and cast their ballots in person.
A Georgia judge ruled against a lawsuit claiming elections officials in Chatham County mishandled 53 mail-in ballots.
Officials in Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office stood by the integrity of the elections process across Georgia.
“We have 159 dedicated election supervisors and their staffs working to get this right,” Gabriel Sterling, voting systems manager in the secretary of state’s office, said during a mid-afternoon news conference. “They’re going to get it right. We’re going to have an audit to prove they got it right.”
With Georgia among just a handful of states still in play, its 16 electoral votes are critical to either presidential candidate’s chances.
A Biden victory in Georgia would represent a huge upset. The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state was Bill Clinton in 1992. Georgia has been reliably Republican in statewide contests since the early 2000s.
Meanwhile, Democratic mail-in votes also reduced Perdue’s lead over Ossoff to the point the GOP incumbent likely will face the Democrat again in a runoff. That would put both of Georgia’s Senate seats up for grabs on Jan. 5, .with Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler defending her seat against Democrat Raphael Warnock.
That would put Georgia in the national spotlight for weeks after this week’s votes are counted. The results in Georgia could determine whether Republicans keep their majority in the Senate or Democrats wrest control.
The tightening of the presidential and Senate contests in Georgia also could result in a runoff for one or even two open seats on the state Public Service Commission (PSC).
By late Thursday, Republican Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald’s share of the statewide vote against Democrat Daniel Blackman was down to 50.11%. GOP Commissioner Jason Shaw was leading Democrat Robert Bryant with 50.32% of the vote, making it less likely but still possible a runoff might be needed to decide that race.
Any PSC runoffs would be held on Dec. 1.
As of Nov. 6, Biden had taken the lead over Trump.