When Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock sought Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, both of which they won in special-election runoffs this January, there was little expectation they would match the centrism of fellow Peach State Democrats who held those seats before.
In 2017, when Ossoff initially ran unsuccessfully for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District against Republican Karen Handel, Matthew Yglesias, then of the left-wing website Vox, observed that Ossoff’s message—support for abortion, aggressive anti-climate-change legislation and expanded healthcare programs—was “a lot more liberal than what you heard recently in Georgia.”
And in the run-up to Warnock’s election, reports surfaced that the Baptist pastor wrote in his 2006 doctoral thesis at New York’s Union Theological Seminary that “the Marxist critique [of free markets] has much to teach the black church.”
Since pulling off surprise victories against former Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the two freshmen haven’t done much to dispel the ideological impressions they made before.
Their voting records have, for instance, rarely differed from that of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the eight months during which they have all served together thus far. Analyses by ProPublica of the Georgians’ respective positions on nearly 400 votes cast this year reveals both Ossoff and Warnock disagreed with their Green Mountain State colleague a mere five percent of the time.
True enough, context matters, as some congressional votes are uncontroversial and therefore unanimous. And even so-called “moderate” Democratic senators like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema only differed from the Vermont socialist 13 percent of the time and seven percent of the time respectively this year. Yet even Maine’s Susan Collins, among the most liberal GOP senators, contrasted with the Vermonter on 40 percent of the votes she has cast in the current congressional session.
Ossoff and Warnock have also not deviated discernibly from President Joe Biden’s agenda. According to the data-analysis website FiveThirtyEight, both Georgia senators have voted in line with the administration’s position 100 percent of the time so far. Their records include support for a $3.5 trillion budget plan and all of Biden’s cabinet nominees as well as significant new environmental, labor and campaign-finance regulations.
Georgia Democrats who served in the chamber in the past have sometimes distinguished themselves as more liberal than their Republican counterparts, but not to the extent Ossoff and Warnock have. Sen. Sam Nunn, who served from 1972 to 1997, clashed with the Clinton administration when it promoted socialized medicine and tax increases in the early 1990s. Nunn’s successor Max Cleland also would also cast the occasional moderate vote, e.g., in favor of President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax reduction.
And the late Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat appointed by Gov. Roy Barnes (D) to fill the seat of GOP Sen. Paul Coverdell in the summer of 2000, ended up voting with the Republicans more often than with his own party on economic, cultural and foreign-policy issues.
Ossoff and Warnock are the first two Democrats to have gotten elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia since Cleland’s reelection loss in 2002 and Miller’s retirement two years later.
Signs are already emerging that the more leftist personas Georgia’s current senators are building could make their reelections difficult. As The Georgia Star News reported last month, the Georgia Democratic Party fretted in a fundraising email that Warnock, who is up for reelection next year, “is the MOST vulnerable Democrat up for re-election.”
Another Democratic-Party email noted that Republican Herschel Walker, a Heisman-Trophy-winning former football player who former President Donald Trump has praised, already polls neck-and-neck with Warnock. The poll cited therein was conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Democrat-aligned firm based in North Carolina.
Walker officially commenced his campaign in August.
– – –