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Can Georgia’s Republican senators retain their closely contested seats?

In Georgia, nearly 2 million people -- more than a quarter of registered voters -- have already cast their ballots, with some waiting in line for hours to do so. The state has become a new battleground for deciding control of the U.S. Senate, with two Republican incumbents facing competitive races in a state growing more Democratic. Rickey Bevington of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Nearly two million people, more than a quarter of registered voters, have already cast ballots in Georgia. Some of them waited in line for hours.

    The state has become a new battleground for deciding control of the U.S. Senate.

    Rickey Bevington of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports on what voters are deciding on.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    It's the only state with two Senate races on the ballot this year, with two incumbent Republicans on defense.

    In one, first-term Senator David Perdue faces Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, who gained national attention in 2017 after a failed bid for Congress.

    In the other race, appointed Senator Kelly Loeffler, in her first year in office, faces 21 challengers, and is hoping to reach 50 percent support to avoid a run-off. But she's got to fend off GOP Congressman Doug Collins. The two Republicans are fighting to be seen as the conservative in the race.

    But they're facing a tough challenge from Democrat Raphael Warnock, reverend at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. According to recent polling, both races are closer than Georgia Senate elections have been in years.

    In Dalton, Georgia, a small carpet mill town an hour-and-a-half north of Atlanta, the lunch crowd was quickly filling the Oakwood Cafe. Even though the area is the home district of Collins, many of those that we spoke to said that they were still undecided on which Republican they would be supporting, but all said the economy and other traditional Republican issues were important to them.

  • Larry Pickel:

    Just bring law and order back to a country that was really established on law and order.

  • Rick Meyers:

    I think people need a choice in health care. I don't think they — it should be mandated from Washington, D.C.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    In Atlanta's Fulton County, where Hillary Clinton netted 70 percent of votes four years ago, helping people through the pandemic and racial justice were pressing issues with those we spoke to on the popular transportation greenway the Atlanta BeltLine.

  • Natalie Do Santos:

    Most immediate would be the response to the pandemic, with balancing out an — economic relief, as well as preventing more deaths.

  • Bryon Gibbs:

    We have kind of seen an uptick in police brutality and just the uprising of these hate groups.

  • Matt Moore:

    Whether it's the liberalization of COVID-19 restrictions or just a more aggressive reopening of major just sectors of business.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    2018 voting data shows Georgia still has more Republican voters than Democrats. President Trump won here in 2016 by five points. With Trump's name on the ballot again, it could give a boost to the Republican candidates.

    It's also been more than a decade since a Democrat has won a statewide election. But, in 2018, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams came 55,000 votes shy of beating Republican Brian Kemp.

    Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie has been tracking the state's political changes.

  • Andra Gillespie:

    And so most people looked at that as a harbinger for the fact that Democrats were going to be increasingly competitive in the state, and that, sooner or later, they were going to eventually win some statewide election.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    With Republicans scrambling to keep their slim majority in the Senate, even one Georgia run-off could determine which party controls the chamber in Washington.

  • Andra Gillespie:

    If it turns out that the balance of power in the Senate rests on who gets elected to Johnny Isakson's seat or even David Perdue's seat in Georgia, what we can expect is that all eyes will be on Georgia.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    Which means Georgians, as well as the rest of the nation, could be waiting until January to see if there is any shift in power in the halls of the Capitol.

    For "PBS NewsHour," I'm Rickey Bevington in Atlanta.

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