IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Loeffler refuses to say whether Trump lost, spars with Warnock over agendas, records

Loeffler framed her victory as necessary to defend against the Democratic agenda, prompting the question of whether that meant she was acknowledging Biden's win.
Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga.
Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga.Getty Images, AP

ATLANTA — Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., repeatedly refused to acknowledge that President Donald Trump lost last month's election in a debate Sunday evening against her Democratic challenger, Raphael Warnock.

Over the course of the hourlong faceoff, which was hosted by Georgia Public Radio and the Atlanta Press Club, they also tangled over their agendas, particularly with regard to further Covid-19 relief, their records and the "lies" they claimed the other was spreading.

Loeffler was asked at the start of the debate whether she believed the election in the state, where President-elect Joe Biden won the presidential contest, was "rigged" — an allegation Trump has leveled without proof. She responded that it was "very clear" that there were issues, calling for investigations to be completed quickly. But she did not go further.

Asked again, she said that the process "is still playing out" and that "we also have to make sure that Georgians know we have a process that works."

Asked directly whether Trump lost, Loeffler said he "has every right to use every legal recourse available."

She was also asked about Trump's repeated bashing of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler to the Senate late last year, and about whom she owed more loyalty to.

"I appreciate the president's support of me, and I appreciate the governor's support of me," Loeffler said. "They both know what's at stake."

She declined to attack Kemp and said the buck stops with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, whom she has called on to resign. Raffensperger has the defended the integrity of the count and his office.

Loeffler framed her election as a last line of defense against the Democratic agenda, prompting the question of whether she was conceding that Trump had lost.

"What's at stake is the Senate majority," she said.

Loeffler appeared alongside Trump at a rally Saturday in Valdosta, where Trump repeatedly attacked the integrity of last month's election. Georgia Republican officials have pushed back against the attacks, saying they are without merit. Trump's efforts to challenge the results in several states have come up short.

After California certified its results Friday, enough states — including Georgia — had made their election results official to give Biden the needed 270 electoral votes to take the White House. Biden won 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232 last month.

Much of the rest of the debate featured Loeffler repeating the same few points about Warnock that have appeared in attack ads against him, while Warnock made an issue of Loeffler's stock-trading controversy from earlier this year.

Over and over again, Loeffler referred to Warnock as "radical liberal Raphael Warnock" in addressing him and highlighted comments he had made about police, criminal justice and the military during sermons he delivered as the top pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. She claimed that Warnock would "defund police" and raise taxes on working-class Georgians and that she is "fighting for the American dream every day."

Warnock took issue with Loeffler's portrayal, saying he would be an ally of law enforcement. He said that he does not support defunding the police but that he does support police reform.

He said Loeffler, the wealthiest member of Congress, is spending millions attacking him only because she cannot make a case for herself. He said later that Loeffler had cast a vote that, in effect, had served to cut some funding to police.

"She was appointed. The people of Georgia have been disappointed," he said.

Warnock accused Loeffler of using "her position as a U.S. senator to make millions," pointing to stock trades that were made at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I'm OK with the fact she wants to make money," he said. "I just don't think you should use the people's seat to enrich yourself. You ought to use the people's seat to represent the people."

Loeffler said she had been "completely exonerated."

The two battled over coronavirus aid, which Warnock said has not been generous enough for everyday Georgians.

Loeffler asked Warnock to denounce socialism and Marxism, to which he said that he believes "in our free enterprise system" and that his church offered parishioners services in financial literacy and how to create a business and buy a home.

"She has made a calculation that after being in the Senate for 10 months, she does not have a case for why the people of Georgia should keep her there," Warnock said.

Loeffler later said she "was blessed to live the American dream, and I want Georgians to live theirs," attacking Warnock for having "never created a job in his life."

Warnock dodged a question about whether he would support expanding the Supreme Court should Democrats win Georgia's two Senate seats next month, saying he is "really not focused on it."

Asked about her previous comments about Black Lives Matter and the backlash it led to among players of the WNBA team she holds an ownership stake in, the Atlanta Dream, Loeffler said that there is no place for racism in the U.S. but that Black Lives Matter was an anti-police group.

"There's not a racist bone in my body," she said.

Earlier Sunday, Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is seeking the other Georgia Senate seat, faced off against an empty podium in a debate hosted by Georgia Public Radio and the Atlanta Press Club after Republican Sen. David Perdue declined to participate.

Ossoff slammed Perdue for showing "an astonishing arrogance and sense of entitlement" by not showing up, criticizing him in addition for his numerous stock trades over his Senate career and at the early stages of the pandemic.

Perdue campaign manager Ben Fry said in a statement that Ossoff "lost a debate against himself."

The Senate runoffs, set for Jan. 5, will determine control of the Senate, where Republicans have a two-seat majority. If both Democrats win, Democrats would control the chamber with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaking vote.

The elections are necessary because no candidate won at least 50 percent of the vote in November. Under Georgia law, the top two finishers move forward to a runoff election.