What you need to know about the special election for US Senate in Georgia

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  • Sen. Kelly Loeffler is running for a full term to the US Senate in a November 3 jungle special election, where candidates of all parties run on the same ballot.
  • Her main opponents are Democrat Raphael Warnock and fellow Republican, Rep. Doug Collins.
  • Polls in Georgia close at 7 p.m. ET on Election Day. Insider will have the full results of the race as they come in. 
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  • Senate Open
  • Senate Special Election
  • GA-06
  • GA-07

Sen. Kelly Loeffler is running for a full term to the US Senate in a November 3 jungle special election. Polls in Georgia close at 7 p.m. ET on Election Day. Insider will have the full results of the race as they come in. 

The candidates 

Loeffler, a wealthy businesswoman and political newcomer, was appointed to the seat by Gov. Brian Kemp to replace former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned from office in December 2019 before the end of his term over his declining health.

Loeffler, who is backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the official campaign arm of Senate Republicans, is competing in a November 3 jungle special election to elect a Senator to serve out the rest of Isakson's term until 2022. 

In the election, candidates from all parties are competing on the same ballot. If no candidate earns over 50% of the vote, the special election will go to a January 5, 2021 runoff between the top two highest-performing candidates. 

Kemp reportedly selected Loeffler for the position based on the level of personal wealth she could contribute to her own campaign (she and her husband, Intercontinental Exchange and New York Stock Exchange chairman Jeff Sprecher, are together worth an estimated $500 million), and her potential to win over suburban female voters. 

On the Republican side, her main opponent is Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee who served as a staunch and impassioned defender of President Donald Trump during his impeachment hearings. 

Collins, who represents a seat in rural Georgia, is seizing on Loeffler's various controversies to attack her as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire, and recently came after her for having an Andy Warhol print of Chinese communist Mao Zedong in her home. 

Collins and Loeffler have also been battling to earn endorsements from various Trumpworld figures. Loeffler was recently endorsed by former acting Director of National Intelligence and US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grennell, while Collins picked up the endorsement of Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor who was later charged in the Mueller probe. 

The frontrunner of the Democratic field is Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor Raphael Warnock, who was backed early on by the DSCC, the Senate Democrats' campaign arm, and has gained considerable momentum in recent weeks. 

The stakes   

In addition to winning back the White House, regaining control of the US Senate for the first time since 2015 is a top priority for Democrats and would be a major accomplishment towards either delivering on a future president Joe Biden's policy goals or thwarting President Donald Trump's second-term agenda. 

Currently, the US Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents that caucus with Democrats, winning that Democrats need to win back a net total of four seats to have a 51-seat majority (if Biden wins, his vice president would also serve as president of the Senate and would be a tie-breaker vote). 

All the competitive races for US Senate have been shaped by the high-stakes confirmation battle to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 from pancreatic cancer on September 18, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett. 

Ginsburg's death threw a stick of dynamite into an already supercharged election shaped by a deadly pandemic that has so far claimed over 230,000 American lives. 

McConnell's quest to confirm a new justice before the end of Trump's first term puts the chamber on a collision course with the reelection hopes of many vulnerable Republican Senators, including Loeffler, and played a significant role in accelerating Warnock's trajectory, giving a much better shot of breaking through.

 Warnock was one of many Democrats to benefit from a windfall in campaign donations after Justice Ginsburg's death, and picked up a coveted endorsement from former President Barack Obama, who has also cut an ad for Warnock and campaigned in-person in Georgia. 

Georgia is also rapidly trending from red to purple, thanks to its fast-growing Atlanta metro area, presenting a prime opportunity for Democrats. 

Not only are both presidential candidates investing in the state, but Democrats are making a play to unseat Sen. David Perdue in Georgia's other US Senate election, where Jon Ossoff is the Democratic nominee, and looking to flip the open seat in Georgia's 7th Congressional District in the Atlanta suburbs.  

With Warnock's stock in the race is rising, both Loeffler and Collins now face the very real possibility of being locked out of the runoff altogether. 

The money race

Loeffler leads the rest of the field by a significant margin in receipts thanks to her significant personal wealth, with Warnock leading the field in fundraising from other donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Warnock has raised $21.9 million, spent $16.4 million, and has $5.5 million in cash on hand, while Collins' Senate campaign has brought in $6.3 million, including a $1.4 transfer from his House campaign account, spent $4.8 million, and has $1.4 million in cash on hand.

In total, Loeffler has brought in $28.2 million so far this cycle, $23 million of which is directly from personal loans she made to her own campaign, Federal Election Commission records show. She's spent $22.3 million, and has $5.9 million in cash on hand. 

In 2020's third fundraising quarter, Warnock was the top fundraiser, bringing in $12.9 million compared to $7.2 million for Loeffler ($5 million of which was self-funded) and a $2.4 million haul for Collins, Roll Call reported. 

What the polling says

Throughout the first part of 2020, most polls of the special election showed Loeffler leading the field, but the combination of Justice Ginsburg's death propelling a surge of momentum for Democratic Senate candidates nationwide and Obama's endorsement rapidly boosted Warnock's performance in the polls. 

Now, Warnock leads the rest of the special election field by over 14 percentage points on average in RealClearPolitics poll averages. 

A recent Landmark Communications poll released October 28 found Warnock in the lead with the support of 37% of likely voters compared to 25% for Loeffler and 23% for Collins. 

A Public Policy Polling survey conducted October-27 also found Warnock with a big lead, earning the support of 46% of likely voters, with 27% backing Loeffler and 19% backing Collins. 

Another recent Monmouth University poll conducted from October 23-27 found 41% of high likely turnout voters supporting Warnock compared to 22% for Loeffler and 19% for Collins.

What some of the experts say

The Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics rate the special election as a tossup while Inside Elections rates it as "tilts Republican." 

According to FiveThirtyEight's US Senate forecasting model, Warnock has a 63% chance of winning the special election while one of the Republican candidates, Loeffler or Collins, has a 37% chance. 

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