Democrat Jon Ossoff had the stage to himself Sunday night, with the exception of an empty podium, as Sen. David Perdue stayed away from the Atlanta Press Club debate. After introducing Ossoff, moderator Russ Spencer introduced Perdue, with the camera focused on the blank space above the lectern.
When the question-and-answer portion of the debate came, Ossoff was allowed to ask the podium the question he would have asked Perdue, and then answer the question himself.
“This is a strange situation,” Ossoff acknowledged, before asking the podium about Perdue’s finances and what Ossoff called Perdue’s refusal to push for additional unemployment relief for Georgians during the pandemic.
The debate came two days after Georgia reported its highest ever single day total of reported COVID-19 cases. Ossoff reiterated his position that he would be supportive of additional lockdown measures to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
“I will listen to the public health experts,” Ossoff said. “And if they recommend that more aggressive mitigation measures are necessary to save lives. It would be foolish for politicians to ignore their advice.”
He also made his case straight to the camera about Perdue’s absence.
“My message for the people of our state, at this moment of crisis, is that your senator feels entitled to your vote,” Ossoff said.
In a first for a Senate debate, Ossoff also made an appeal to “the Tik Tok family out there.”
“Make a plan to vote,” he said.
In skipping the debate, Perdue missed not only the forum, but also what would have been pointed questions from reporters on the panel about a barrage of recent reports about his stock trades during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his refusal, like Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s, to publicly acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect.
Perdue’s decision not to show up means that there will likely be no runoff debate between the two at all. Perdue’s staff has said the senator wants to use his time focusing on meeting with Georgia voters instead.
The senator is a first-term Republican seeking re-election and was forced into the runoff with Ossoff when he finished just shy of the 50% mark that Georgia law requires for an outright win. Perdue won 49.7% of the vote, to Ossoff’s 47.9%.
Ossoff and Perdue debated two times in the general election, when Libertarian Shane Hazel was also included.
Following the debate, Perdue’s campaign manager Ben Fry released as statement, that Ossoff had “lost a debate against himself.”
Fry also Fry hammered the Democrat’s comments about tougher COVID measures and Ossoff’s call for comprehensive immigration reform.
“These are serious times and Jon Ossoff just showed how unserious -- and unprepared -- he really is. Georgians will reject Jon Ossoff once again next month,” Fry said.