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Political ads, poker fundraisers: GA Senate race has raised millions of dollars

With President Trump holding a rally in southern Georgia and celebrities hosting fundraisers and endorsing candidates, millions of dollars are being spent on the runoff election in Georgia, which will decide which party will control the Senate. Rickey Bevington, Senior Correspondent, Georgia Public Broadcasting, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Rickey Bevington, senior correspondent for Georgia Public Broadcasting, has been reporting on the Georgia Senate runoff race and more. She joined me from Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    Hari, when I last spoke to you, I warned you that Georgia was going to become the center of the political universe. It has come true. I have a crystal ball. Today alone, Donald Trump will be here with his wife, Melania Trump, in South Georgia, not metro Atlanta, South Georgia, which is deep red Georgia. Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence was here. If just one of these seats goes to one of the Republican incumbents, the GOP maintains control of the US Senate. Needless to say, we anticipate about a half billion dollars in ad spending just for this election. It's a big deal for Republicans.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And what about the Democrats? What are they doing to try to counter this?

  • Rickey Bevington:

    We have seen a lot of celebrity endorsements, shall we say, everybody from Justin Timberlake to Pearl Jam to Kerry Washington having online fundraisers. And of course, we already have the homegrown Georgia star power of Stacey Abrams, a former gubernatorial candidate who came very close to winning as a Democrat for governor two years ago. And I've even seen, Hari, a celebrity poker tournament to raise money on the Democratic side. So, both sides are raising huge amounts of money.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This also comes at a time when the president is still railing against the results in Georgia, talking about fraud that has not been substantiated. The secretary of state in Georgia and others that are responsible for the election have been very vocal this past week, saying there's nothing wrong with our numbers.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    And there is no evidence that there's anything wrong with Georgia's numbers. After three counts of five million presidential ballots, Joe Biden maintains his lead and his victory over Donald Trump by about 12,000 votes. And so far, not a single lawsuit has held up in court. Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney, was here on Thursday having a seven-hour long hearing with Republican state lawmakers trying to prove his case. The fact of the matter is, Hari, there's no evidence.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And this is the same system that Republicans who have held power in Georgia for quite some time have been using.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    We have an entirely Republican slate of constitutional office holders — from the governor to the insurance commissioner and, of course, Republican majorities in both the state House and state Senate. And these are the lawmakers who have spent the last two years looking into new elections technology. They selected the elections technology, had hearings and spent a hundred ten million dollars of Georgia taxpayer money on a brand-new election system. And to this day, they remain extremely confident in their decision on how they decided to run Georgia's elections this year.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What are you expecting from these campaigns? I mean, you've already, you're likely already inundated with advertisements on television. How much worse or better can it get?

  • Rickey Bevington:

    Yesterday, I got a postcard in the mail from some voter in California encouraging me to vote. Georgians are going to be encouraged to vote in all the ways that we know that people are encouraged to vote, including you cannot turn on the television without every ad being a political ad. There's even discussion of local TV stations creating entirely new shows simply so they can sell airtime for ad, for political ads. Right. So, we may be seeing new newscasts pop up. I don't know the 2:30 p.m. Local newscast simply to sell airtime. Of course, I'm being silly, Hari, but it does give you a sense they've got to spend that half a billion dollars somewhere.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In this next month, are we expected to see candidates debate each other, for example?

  • Rickey Bevington:

    Hari, the Atlanta Press Club and Georgia Public Broadcasting are hosting all four senatorial candidates on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. This will be nationally broadcast. This will be Reverend Warnock and Kelly Loeffler debating on stage, of course, all socially distanced. And we'll have Democrat John Ossoff debating an empty podium. Republican Senator David Perdue has declined to appear. So the panel will spend 30 minutes asking ourselves questions. And again, that is 5:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday on Georgia Public Broadcasting, also hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Rickey Bevington, Georgia Public Broadcasting, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Rickey Bevington:

    Always a pleasure, Hari. Thank you.

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