Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be traveling to Georgia Monday to campaign with Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock. Both men are engaged in highly competitive and high-profile runoff races that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate when President elect-Joe Biden takes office in late January.
Harris' trip to Suwanee and Columbus, her first since she became the nation's first woman elected vice president, comes as early voting in the state is underway. Mr. Biden traveled to Georgia earlier this week to campaign with Ossoff and Warnock and stressed the importance of winning the two seats to carry out his agenda. Should Democrats win both seats on January 5, Democrats would have a narrow majority of one in the Senate, with Harris casting any tie-breaking votes.
"I need two senators from this state. I want to get something done — not two senators who are just going to get in the way because look, getting nothing done just hurts Georgia," Biden told supporters this week.
Harris, too, has stressed the importance of winning the Georgia races, saying in a recent interview that "those two seats in Georgia are critical."
The Biden campaign has made major investments into both races. A Biden campaign spokesperson told CBS News that the campaign to date has spent close to $5 million on the Georgia runoffs to date and has kept 50 staffers on the Biden campaign payroll to work on outreach and voter contact, particularly in metro Atlanta and other parts of the state where Biden over-performed compared to previous cycles.
Democrats will need their voters to turn out in record numbers for the runoff, taking place two months after Election Day, to win both races. Usually, such elections attract a much smaller number of voters. Biden alluded to that in his speech this week saying, "I think Georgia is going to shock the nation with the number of people on January 5."
The first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent to be elected as vice president, Harris hopes to help turn out Black voters in Georgia – voters who were paramount to helping Biden clinch the state in November. A Democrat had not won the state since Bill Clinton prevailed over President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
President Trump and Vice President Pence have both made trips to the state to campaign for the GOP incumbents, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, to show just how important the two seats are to both parties.
One of the stops on Harris' itinerary, Suwanee, is located in Gwinett County – a county the president narrowly won in November 49.6% to 48.4%. CBS News voter files show that 17% of registered voters in the county are Asian American, a number that is higher than the state's average. Columbus, located in Muscogee County, saw Biden with a convincing win over the president, 61.4% to 37.4%.
Ossoff, a documentary film maker, is challenging Republican incumbent Senator David Perdue in one of the two Senate runoffs. Perdue was up for reelection in November, but failed to reach the 50% threshold that would have enabled him to avoid a runoff under Georgia law.
Fellow Democrat Warnock faces another incumbent, Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat last year. Loeffler had more than 20 challengers in a special election for her seat in November and finished second to Warnock, securing her spot in the runoff between the top two candidates.
Kabir Khanna contributed to this report.