Kamala Harris rallies for Democrats in Savannah 2 days before Senate runoff

SAVANNAH ― Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Sunday urged voters on Georgia’s coast to get to the polls and elect Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, kicking off a furious final stretch of campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate.

“I’m here to thank you on behalf of Joe and myself for what you did in November,” she said, referring to President-elect Joe Biden. “And I’m here to ask you to do it again.”

Her visit was part of a push that will culminate with three rallies Monday: Vice President Mike Pence will stump for Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler at a megachurch, while Biden and President Donald Trump hold dueling rallies later in the day.

Loeffler also brought in a big name while she campaigned Sunday.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem joined Loeffler in McDonough, where she wowed the crowd of about 100 that had come to see her and the senator at Gritz family restaurant on the town square.

“The next president!” one man yelled as Noem climbed onto the bed of a white pickup truck to talk up Loeffler’s conservative bona fides.

”Leadership has consequences,” Noem said of Loeffler. “It matters who wins on Tuesday. It matters that she’s the one there fighting for you each and every day.”

At the Democratic rally in Garden City, just outside of Savannah, cars were spread out across a large parking lot surrounded by school buses. Attendees honked as Harris took aim at Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s recent call with Trump, in which the president urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in November.

“It was a bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States,” Harris said, adding that it was “most certainly the voice of desperation.”

In visiting Savannah, Harris focused on a left-leaning county where early voting has lagged behind other liberal strongholds. Chatham County’s rate of early-voting participation trails DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and other key Democratic counties.

In Chatham, where African Americans make up over 40% of the population, about 60% of voters cast ballots for Biden in November.

Statewide, over 3 million Georgians cast ballots during early voting, which ended Thursday. Sunday was all about getting out the vote on election day Tuesday.

“Vote, vote, vote because your life depends on it,” Harris said.

For Warnock, the rally was a homecoming of sorts. He grew up in public housing in Savannah and launched his campaign with a video filmed here. At the rally, he brought up those connections multiple times.

“There’s no place like home,” he said. “We need Savannah to show up like it’s never shown up before.”

Ossoff highlighted the stakes of the runoff early in his speech.

“The whole country is watching the people of Georgia right now,” he said. “Georgia, feel your power.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told the crowd that Tuesday’s election “will determine the future of our country.” She brought up her own 2017 race for mayor, which she won by just over 800 votes.

“It was a tight race down to the bitter end. Then Sen. Kamala Harris came and she campaigned for me and there was energy, and there was a groundswell ... that fueled my win,” Bottoms said.

The Republicans continued to focus on parts of the state where GOP turnout has fallen behind. Perdue is self-isolating after he was exposed to a staff member who contracted the coronavirus, but his campaign sent surrogates to west Georgia, coastal areas and Atlanta’s exurbs to energize Republicans.

In McDonough, Noem pointed to the incoming vice president as a primary reason Republicans should go vote.

”If we don’t win the Senate seats, the deciding vote in the Senate is going to be Kamala Harris,” she said.

“We don’t want that individual breaking ties in the Senate on the most controversial pieces of legislation in this country.”

Staff writer Patricia Murphy contributed to this article.