Our fact-checking of the essential Georgia Senate runoff races

How effective President-elect Joe Biden will be in implementing his policies from Congress depends largely on the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff races.

Georgia’s two Republican Senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – are trying to keep their seats and maintain a majority of Republicans in the Senate. Democrats control the US house by a narrow margin.

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff tries to oust Perdue while Rev. Raphael Warnock fights for Loeffler's seat. (The Loeffler-Warnock race winner will serve the remainder of former Senator Johnny Isakson's tenure through January 2023. Isakson resigned in late 2019, and Loeffler was named to his seat by Republican Governor Brian Kemp.)

None of the four candidates won a majority of the votes in their respective races in the November election. So Georgia voters are making one final call to the January 5th runoff election.

PolitiFact has been reviewing the Georgia Senate races for months. Here is a summary of the candidates' claims and the facts.

Perdue's Claims and Attacks on Ossoff

Senator David Perdue, R-Ga., Speaks during a rally on December 21, 2020 in Milton, Ga. (AP)

Despite Perdue's claims, Ossoff is not illegal for a "blanket amnesty" for immigrants in the country. Ossoff supports a path to legal immigration status for them if they meet a number of requirements.

Ossoff is not seeking a "total lockdown" in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as Perdue claims, but would support one if public health experts recommend it.

Ossoff is not a socialist, contrary to Perdue's characterization. In defense of his claim, Purdue argued that Ossoff is for Medicare for All and for the Green New Deal. But Ossoff does not support these proposals and these proposals do not constitute socialism.

When speaking of his own records, Perdue falsely claimed that his policy was that "health insurance should always cover pre-existing conditions". Perdue voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era federal law that protects people with pre-existing medical conditions. And a bill that Perdue sponsored to provide coverage is inconsistent with the protection of federal law.

Ossoff's attacks on Perdue

Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff gathers supporters in Atlanta on November 6, 2020. (AP)

Ossoff alleged that Perdue had not held a single public town hall meeting in six years and that Perdue "sells four meetings a year and a private island retreat for a PAC check for $ 7,500." Perdue's office said he held weekly conference calls with constituents, but we found no evidence that Perdue held a public town hall.

An invitation to a 2019 fundraiser for Perdue gave access to quarterly political action committees that donated an annual donation of $ 7,500 to an annual retreat at a private community on St. Simons Island, Georgia, including a reception at Perdue's residence Meetings and Other Events. It is not clear whether Perdue attended the events.

Perdue is against Biden and stands up as a candidate who can block the democratic agenda. However, we haven't found any public records to back up an Ossoff claim back in November that Perdue went out of his way to ensure Biden fails.

Loeffler's allegations and attacks against Warnock

U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., Speaks to the crowd during a rally on December 5, 2020 in Valdosta, Ga. (AP).

Loeffler distorted Warnock's stance on prisons and bail, claiming he had to "open the prisons" and "remove the bail in cash". Warnock seeks to reduce the prison population through measures like decriminalizing marijuana, not just releasing inmates. And he doesn't want to end the bail in all cases. He wants to end it for nonviolent crimes such as misdemeanor crimes and communal violations.

Loeffler was deceptive in her claim that Warnock defended the "hatred" of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and presented the Chicago pastor with "an award for establishing the truth." A 2003 sermon by Wright condemned America's historic abuse of blacks. Warnock defended Wright's "clarification of the truth" about the abuse, saying that many people mistook the moral outrage of black preachers for hatred. A school of divinity, not Warnock, honored Wright for his career in service.

We found no evidence for Loeffler's claim that Warnock "welcomed" Fidel Castro into his church. Warnock was the youth pastor of a New York church when the former Cuban leader spoke there in 1995. However, we found no evidence that Warnock was involved in organizing the speech or greeting Castro.

Loeffler also claimed that her health policy protected coverage for pre-existing conditions, but we found no evidence of this either. Your plan does not provide details about this, and two provisions in the plan indicate that protection will be weaker than that provided by the ACA.

Warnock's attacks against Loeffler

U.S. Senate Democratic challenger Rev Raphael Warnock speaks during a rally on December 21, 2020 in Columbus, Ga. (AP)

Warnock falsely claimed that Loeffler supported the tax hike for Georgia's middle class. Loeffler supports a 2017 tax law that lowers taxes for individuals and companies. While most of the tax cuts for SMEs expire at the end of 2025, Loeffler has stated that she supports making the tax cuts permanent.

We valued Half True Warnock's claim that Loeffler "welcomed the support of a QAnon conspiracy theorist and sat down for an interview with a white supremacist." Loeffler applauded the support of a Georgia Republican who is a proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory. She also gave an interview with a correspondent for the One America News Network who praised a prominent white supremacist and has other connections with white supremacists. The Southern Poverty Law Center does not add the interviewer to its list of white nationalists, but is still investigating his work with hate groups.

Warnock is partially correct in claiming that Loeffler was "there to get rid of health care in the midst of a pandemic." Loeffler voted for the Trump administration to get a lawsuit back to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The abolition of federal law would affect health insurance for millions of people. Loeffler supports the facilitation of shorter-term health insurance, which gives consumers more options. However, these plans are exempt from ACA protection for pre-existing conditions.

We assessed Half True Warnock's claim that Loeffler "focused on her own portfolio" after learning of the COVID-19 threat and "benefiting from the pandemic," suggesting she has nonpublic information about used the coronavirus outbreak to make profitable stock deals. Loeffler benefited from stock deals she made from the day she received a private briefing for senators at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. She denied the use of non-public information, and investigations by the Senate Ethics Committee and the Justice Department found she was not violating any Senate law or rule that prohibited insider trading.

Claims from others related to Senate drains

A Facebook post falsely claimed that Biden killed a Loeffler campaign employee.

The Facebook post spread an image that was mistakenly described as Loeffler's house.

Pants on Fire: Facebook posts falsely claiming that Loeffler said on Parler that "blacks are not allowed to vote".

Mostly Wrong: Claim by Erick Erickson, a conservative Atlanta radio host, that Warnock "ran over his wife" and "was arrested for interfering with a child abuse investigation."

Tom Kerscher contributed to this report.

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