Capitol Beat: Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia rally together in Atlanta area - Warnock for Georgia

Capitol Beat: Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia rally together in Atlanta area

Democratic U.S. Senate contenders in Georgia rallied Saturday to hand out yard signs and push for consolidating the state’s left-leaning voter population ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both Democrats vying to unseat Republican senators this election cycle, linked arms in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia Saturday morning in one of a burgeoning number of in-person campaign events being held by top Democratic candidates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, has held mostly online video rallies and townhalls so far in his campaign against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Atlanta businesswoman who was appointed in December to hold the seat of retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson until November.

But Saturday’s joint in-person appearance in Dekalb County by Warnock and Ossoff, the investigative journalist challenging U.S. Sen. David Perdue, signaled the two Democratic frontrunners are ready to engage more directly with voters in their respective Senate races roughly a month out from Election Day – and to do it wearing masks.

“I think that the science is very clear that masks work,” Warnock said Saturday.

“This virus is neither red or blue, Democrat or Republican,” Warnock continued. “It’s a virus. And the best thing we can do for one another – the most patriotic thing we can do – is put on a mask, socially distance, wash our hands and take care of our neighbors.”

The several-dozen people in attendance handing out signs Saturday in support of Warnock and Ossoff all wore masks and conducted their activities outdoors, marking a contrast between Republican candidates and incumbents who have taken a more cavalier approach to masking.

Loeffler, speaking with U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee at a Forsyth County restaurant Friday, stated she will not require masks to be worn among attendees at her campaign events despite the positive COVID-19 test results this week of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

“I have had twenty-three Delta (Airlines) flights since May 4th,” Loeffler said Friday. “It is safe to be out and about if you take those precautions. And we should. We have to reopen the economy.”

“The Democrats want to keep us locked down,” Loeffler continued. “We have to find ways to manage through this. I would just encourage Georgians to keep a level head and make sure they’re being cognizant of [health] guidelines.”

Collins, the U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain and Republican who is waging a fierce campaign against Loeffler for Georgia’s share of conservative votes, has also declined to require masks at his campaign events.

“We encourage people to be safe in ways they are comfortable with,” said Collins campaign spokesman Dan McLagan.

“Not being control-mad socialists, we are not big into requiring things,” McLagan added. “Be respectful of others, wear a mask if you wish, social distance.”

The approaches between Democrat and Republican candidates on the campaign trail this election season have been starkly different, marked by an intense focus on safety guidelines by more liberal candidates like Ossoff and Warnock and a more assertive stance on personal choice espoused by conservatives like Loeffler, Collins and Perdue.

Perdue, who like his Republican counterpart Loeffler tested negative for coronavirus Friday following news of Trump’s contraction, said he continues “to urge all Georgians to stay vigilant as we fight this virus.”

“Remember to follow the three ‘W’s’: wash your hands, watch your distance and wear your mask!” Perdue wrote on Twitter Friday.

The alliance of Ossoff’s campaign with fellow Democrat Warnock represents an unusual occurrence, given elections for Georgia’s two Senate seats normally occur in staggered years that do not overlap.

But the start-of-the-year retirement by Isakson, a Republican, has thrust both Senate seats into play and partnered Warnock and Ossoff as the state’s Democratic party seeks to solidify support – and potentially help flip the balance of power in Congress.

On Saturday, Ossoff pressed for less political divisiveness amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has crippled swaths of the economy and hounded Georgians who in many communities are venturing back out in public after more than six months of social isolation.

“This should be a time for healing and unity,” Ossoff said Saturday. “And Reverend Warnock and I are united in the effort to unite the people to focus on what matters, which is our health, our well-being [and] our prosperity.”

As of Friday afternoon, more than 320,000 people in Georgia had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel strain of coronavirus that sparked a global pandemic. It had killed 7,106 Georgians.

Early voting in Georgia for the Nov. 3 elections starts on Oct. 12.

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