WATCH LIVE: Georgia Senate debate


Watch the Georgia debate for U.S. Senate at 7 p.m. EDT tonight, featuring Michelle Nunn (D), David Perdue (R), and Amanda Swafford (L). Live stream courtesy WMAZ-TV Macon.

Three novice politicians will face off tonight at the Georgia National Fair in pursuit of Georgia’s vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Candidates Michelle Nunn (D), David Perdue (R) and Amanda Swafford (L) will compete for the office held by retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss (R) in a debate hosted by WMAZ-13 Macon. Frank Malloy, an anchor for the station, will moderate.

Although none of the candidates have held major office before — Nunn comes from the nonprofit sector, Perdue and Swafford from the private — the major-party players nonetheless enjoy statewide name recognition: Nunn’s father was a U.S. Senator himself, and Perdue’s cousin, Sonny, is Georgia’s former governor.

Swafford is the surprise element in this race: her presence on the ballot could force a January run-off if neither Nunn or Perdue rake in a majority of votes. Currently, the GOP needs to gain six seats to take control of the Senate. Worst case scenario, a runoff could send the Senate into 2015 with no sense of which party is in charge.

This has placed Georgia, somewhat surprisingly, staunchly within both Democratic and Republican crosshairs. Team Nunn is counting on a conservative third-party candidate to pull votes from her opponent, and the Peach State’s changing demographics — Democratic-leaning minority groups make up an increasingly large portion of the eligible voting pool — are keeping this traditionally-GOP-held seat in play.

As PBS NewsHour’s Domenico Montanaro has reported, both Nunn and Perdue have been playing up their outsider status. Tonight’s debate will be important to shaping these newcomers’ narratives, and will likely focus on their respective plans to fix Washington. Perdue has been outspoken in his criticism of President Barack Obama, the Affordable Care Act, and immigration reform. Like other Democrats running in red states, Nunn will have to highlight her moderation and bipartisanship on issues like health care and environmental regulations.