NEW YORK — From a generous stimulus package, to judicial nominees and infrastructure spending, the Biden-Harris team has ambitious plans that could affect the New York metro area heavily. A pair of runoff elections some 900 miles away could be the key factor that determines whether or not those plans become reality for our region, and for the nation. All eyes politically are on Georgia.
Andrew Sidman, the chair of the political science department at John Jay College, pointed out that the Peach State can strongly affect the Empire State.
“I’m not one for hyperbole,” Sidman said in an interview, “but you cannot overstate how important these runoff races are for the Democratic agenda going forward.”
The two U.S. Senate seats from Georgia face a runoff election on Jan. 5, due to a segregation era state law requiring candidates for statewide office to win at least 50 percent of the vote.
If both of those Senate seats flip from red to blue — the same way that preliminary election results indicate that Georgia as a whole appears to have done in the presidential election — the Democratic Party would be on its way to a carrying out the new administration’s agenda.
Patrick Egan, professor of politics at NYU, said that, among many objectives that a Biden-Harris administration wants is “a way forward for a vigorous stimulus package to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Based on past proposals for the package, put forward by Democrats, it would most likely be a major stimulus, totaling more than $2 trillion. The Tri-state area would most likely receive significant funding toward state and city budgets, which have gone lacking since the pandemic struck.
Since none of the 21 candidates for U.S. Senate in the Georgia election on Nov. 3 won 50 percent of the vote for either of the two seats up for grabs, the top two candidates for each seat will now go head-to-head in early January’s special runoff election.
Incumbent Senator David Perdue, a Republican, will face Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, for the seat that Perdue currently occupies. Georgia’s other Senate seat is held by Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to it this year after Sen. Johnny Isakson vacated the seat for health reasons. It’s now required to be filled by election, and the senior pastor of Martin Luther King’s former church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta, is the Democratic Party candidate.
Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock has significant ties to New York. He holds not one, but three graduate degrees from Union Theological Seminary, in Morningside Heights in Upper Manhattan. He’s also the former assistant pastor at one of the city’s most prominent churches, Abyssinian Baptist, in Harlem.
Beyond that, though, the New York angle on this whole story is even stronger, since the Georgia races could determine if New York Sen. Charles Schumer ends up becoming Senate majority leader. He’s currently minority leader, and the addition of the two Georgia seats to the Democratic column would open a way for Schumer to shepherd significant Biden-Harris legislation.
The senate has 100 members. Right now, there are 48 Republicans, confirmed, with the GOP on course to pick up a seat each in Alaska and North Carolina, if current vote tallying trends continue.
That would result in 50 Republican seats, with Mitch McConnell still leading the Senate GOP. However, if the Democrats win the two Georgia seats, the split in the chamber would become 50-50.
“The Democrats [would] have a lot of leeway to accomplish a pretty ambitious agenda,” Prof. Egan said.
A 50-50 split would mean that any tie vote would be broken by the president of the Senate. The vice president fills that role. After Inauguration Day, that person will be Kamala Harris.
Regarding a 50-50 split, Prof. Sidman said, “It’s not something we see often, but it will certainly make Vice President-elect Harris a very important voice in the Senate, should Democrats pickup both of these seats in Georgia.”
An eye-popping $155 million was spent by the Georgia senate campaigns in the general election. Similar amounts are expected to be spent in the runoff election, much of it from out-of-state donors.