On Monday afternoon, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris made her way back to Georgia, appearing at campaign stops in Columbus, Georgia for Democratic challengers for the U.S. Senate Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Harris delivered remarks at a drive-in rally in Columbus; the vice-president-elect was supposed to make an appearance at a rally in Gwinnett County, which was postponed due to a vote by Congress in Washington on a second stimulus bill.

“Everything is at stake. Everything that was at stake in November is at stake leading up to Jan. 5,” Harris told the crowd at the drive-in rally in Columbus.

The Jan. 5 runoff elections between Warnock and Ossoff against their Republican challengers Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have drawn significant attention from across the country.

Early voting in the races began last week, and already more than a million votes have been cast, according to state figures.

The consequences are as follows: if the Democrat candidates win their respective runoffs, it would set up a 50-50 tie in the Senate, which would make Harris the deciding vote. 

If Republican incumbent Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue win either of their runoff races, Senator Mitch McConnell would still be the majority leader and would serve as a check on President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda.

Speaking ahead of Harris, Ossoff warned that Republicans would block the Biden administration’s agenda if they kept Senate control, stymieing a progressive platform to raise the minimum wage, expand access to health care and invest in infrastructure.

“We have too much good work to do, Columbus, to be mired in gridlock and obstruction,” he said.

Columbus is situated 107 miles away from the Georgia State Capitol and sits along the Black Belt, known for its fertile land. It is the county seat of Muskogee County and is the state’s third-largest city. The city is also home to Fort Benning, one of the largest military bases in the state.

According to Pew Research, the number of Black registered voters in Georgia increased by about 130,000 between Oct. 11, 2016, and Oct. 5, 2020, the largest increase among all major racial and ethnic groups, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Georgia Secretary of State’s Office data.

The fact that the Democratic campaign has continued tilling these Black Belt counties in an attempt to turn out voters, in middle Georgia, hasn’t been lost on the minds of many observers. 

Warnock said on stage that he has been met with surprise as he and Jon Ossoff have pushed beyond Atlanta across the state and into rural areas.

“They’re surprised I’m there, and I’m surprised they’re surprised,” Warnock said.

Monday’s event was held at the Columbus Riverfront Historic District with attendees packed into several dozen vehicles. A small collection of protesters had assembled outside, several carrying signs saying, “Kamala is a socialist.” 

While Harris was in Columbus, Ivanka Trump hosted a rally in affluent Fulton County municipality Milton — about 40 miles north of Atlanta — for Loeffler and Perdue. The President’s daughter said Georgia must send Loeffler and Perdue back to Washington “to protect all that America stands for.” 

She called the runoff the “most important congressional race in history,” and described the Republican incumbents as the “last line of defense” against Democrats’ agenda and for her father in Congress.

“We need David and Kelly in the Senate to keep our economy going, to keep delivering on the president’s plans, and to keep our schools open,” she said.

High profile surrogates have been in Georgia since the end of the general election, crisscrossing the Peach State in an effort to turn out voters that reside on the margins. President-elect Biden was in Atlanta last week. Vice-President Mike Pence has visited the state four times since Election Day.

A number of national celebrities, including Monica, Lynn Whitfield, and others have also appeared at rallies hosted by election groups. There has also been a ton of support from Hollywood in fundraisers and endorsements to the Ossoff and Warnock campaigns.

President Trump announced he will campaign in Georgia on Jan. 4, one day before the runoff election. He has said, rather incessantly, that he was “ashamed” to endorse Gov. Kemp while lampooning Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not demanding a signature-match recount. 

While attempting to stage a bloodless coup d’etat, his supporters have openly questioned whether it’s right to vote in the election, worried that their ballot will count.

Meanwhile, as the Democrats continue their tour through rural Georgia this week, the Ossoff campaign says they made an estimated 750,000 phone calls and texts and mailed 50,000 postcards to Black Georgians living outside of Atlanta. 

Those margins are key to the Democrats’ hopes of sweeping the runoffs. Biden won Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes in the Nov. 3 general election but finished with nearly 100,000 more total votes than Ossoff.

“A lot of gains (that) came out of rural Georgia, I think, were unexpected for some because they did not expect that those voters would show up,” said LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, as she spoke regarding the general election. “Part of our strategy has always been this strategy around literally making sure that we were connecting the urban and rural power. That we would literally be able to speak to those who are in our communities that we see were often most marginalized.”

Additional reporting from The New York Times and the Associated Press

Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris campaigns for Democratic U.S. Senate challengers the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ga. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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