See you in January?

Who Wins a Georgia Senate Run-Off?

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Consider this scenario: A new Congress convenes next Jan. 5, and Republicans have a one-seat majority in the U.S. Senate. The next day, however, the Republican advantage is wiped out. How?

Georgia. State law there requires a run-off if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 4. The Senate race, for a seat held by retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss, is between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. Polls show a tight race. In addition to Nunn and Perdue, the ballot will feature Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford, so the top vote-getter could end up shy of 50 percent.

In the event a run-off is required, it would take place on Jan. 6, one day after the new Congress is slated to convene.

Louisiana also requires a 50 percent victory threshold, and operatives in both parties expect a run-off there on Dec. 6, with incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican challenger Bill Cassidy the probable contestants. Georgia is considered the Democrats' best chance to win a seat currently held by a Republican. A victory there would mitigate Democratic losses sure to accrue elsewhere on the Senate map. If the Republicans win a net of six seats, they will have a Senate majority next year.

Senate run-offs are rare, but not unknown, in Georgia. In 1992 incumbent Democratic Senator Wyche Fowler fell just short of a majority on Election Day in November. The run-off was held three weeks later. Fowler was defeated by Republican Paul Coverdell.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Frank Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net