Ossoff, Warnock unveil joint campaign leadership in tense runoff races

    In a Zoom call with reporters Monday, Rev. Raphael Warnock accused Sen. Kelly Loeffler of trading on inside information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

    Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock are bringing on new campaign staff as they fight for the seats of Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

    The Democrats announced the formation of a joint leadership team to direct the campaign leading up to the Jan. 5 runoff election that will determine the partisan makeup of the Senate and the balance of power in the country.

    The team will be led by Runoff Director Jonae Wartel, a Marietta native with more than a decade of political experience, including working as the Democratic National Committee’s southern regional director and leading the early vote program for Stacey Abrams’ 2018 run for Georgia governor.

    Wartel will be joined by Tracey Lewis, Georgia state director for President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign and a senior advisor to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the presidential primaries; Andrew Childs, who most recently served as deputy director for the Michigan Democratic Party’s 2020 campaign, and Jeremy Halbert-Harris, previously the coordinated campaign director for Biden for America in Georgia.

    According to the campaigns, the team will oversee door-to-door canvassing as well as mail, phone, text and online get-out the-vote efforts. The team will focus on outreach to “key constituencies,” including Black, Latin, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders and young voters, including those who turned 18 after the general election and will be eligible to vote for the first time in the runoff.

    “This seasoned and talented team will lead an unrivaled coordinated effort to reach and turn out the voters who just turned Georgia blue for the first time in decades, and build on the success Democrats saw up and down the ballot on November 3,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Scott Fairchild. “We are confident that the combination of their experience in Georgia and in tough campaigns around the country, we will make history again in January.”

    Warnock and Ossoff are increasingly running as if they were a single ticket, which allows them to pool their resources and makes political sense – Democrats will need two wins if they want to wrest control of the Senate from Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    Ossoff and Warnock had coordinated messages in separate campaign appearances Monday, when they both trained their fire on their multimillionaire rivals’ financial dealings.

    Ossoff charged Perdue with buying shares in medical businesses and selling casino shares after receiving confidential briefings about COVID-19, all while downplaying the seriousness of the disease. 

    A U.S. Justice Department investigation has called into question Perdue’s claims that he does not personally direct his investments, Ossoff said at a campaign event in downtown Atlanta.

    “For Georgia’s senator to be profiting from a pandemic about which he is lying in public, downplaying the risks, while he trades medical stocks, and then lying to the people about his own financial misconduct is totally unacceptable,” Ossoff said at a downtown Atlanta press conference. “The truth is Sen. Perdue did direct his investments personally. So every time he has said he’s not personally responsible for profiting from this pandemic, he’s been lying to you. Purdue’s misconduct is repeated and flagrant.”

    Investigators this summer declined to pursue charges against Perdue over questionable trades, but that does not mean he was in the right, Ossoff said.

    “The standard for conduct for a U.S. Senator needs to be higher than that he wasn’t criminally prosecuted,” Ossoff said. “This conduct is obviously deeply unethical. And his lies all year that he doesn’t personally direct his stock trades have been exposed as lies.”

    Perdue’s campaign told Fox News Ossoff’s charges are false.

    “Jon Ossoff just can’t stop lying. After even The New York Times re-reported the exonerating facts that the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee, the DOJ and the SEC each cleared David Perdue of any and all wrongdoing, Ossoff is still twisting the truth to further deceive Georgia voters,” Perdue campaign communications director John Burke said in a statement to the network Monday. 

    Warnock leveled the same charge at Loeffler.

    “While we were busy sheltering in place, Kelly Loeffler was busy sheltering her own family’s considerable portfolio,” he said in a Zoom call with reporters. “She used her considerable privilege of knowing what the rest of us didn’t know to protect her family’s portfolio while leaving the people she was sent to represent in harm’s way. And then when it came time to provide ordinary families some relief so that they could make it through the pandemic by extending a $600 additional unemployment check, Kelly Loeffler thought that was too much for ordinary families.”

    Loeffler was cleared of financial wrongdoing by the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee in June.

    Warnock sought to paint her as an out-of-touch elite who does not care about the struggles of working Georgians.

    “In a few weeks, more programs will expire, the moratorium on evictions, deferrals on student loans, unemployment assistance for those who are a part of our growing gig economy,” he said. “It’s been months since Kelly Loeffler has provided any relief to ordinary families, and I think it’s time she be held accountable for her lack of representation in the United States Senate. When push came to shove, she was more focused on her own well being than she was on the well being of the people she was there to represent. She was appointed, the people of Georgia are deeply disappointed.”

    In a Fox News appearance Sunday morning, Loeffler continued to call Warnock a radical leftist bent on defunding the police and releasing criminals.

    “We are the firewall to socialism, to stopping socialism in America, right here in Georgia, and we’re going to do that,” she said. “(Senate Minority Leader Chuck) Schumer has his radical change agent in Raphael Warnock in my race. He has espoused radical views from the pulpit, he has attacked our police officers, calling them gangsters, thugs, bullies and a threat to our children, he would defund the police, he said we should empty out our prison, he would turn violent criminals into our streets, and he’s also said you can’t serve in the military and serve God, so he would defund the police, defund the military and make our communities unsafe.”

    Ross Williams
    Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.