Vice President Mike Pence visited Gainesville Friday to encourage Georgians to support Republican U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
The two head to Jan. 5 runoffs, with the party balance in the U.S. Senate hinging on their seats. Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff, while Loeffler will compete against the Rev. Raphael Warnock. No candidate in those races received the required majority of votes to win outright Nov. 3.
“We need the Peach State to defend the Senate, and the road to Republican majority goes straight through Georgia,” Pence said at Friday’s event at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center.
Friday’s crowd, many waving Trump signs and American flags, chanted “Trump the steal,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s legal team’s efforts to challenge election results.
Pence also referred to the legal fights Friday.
“We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted,” Pence said to cheers from the crowd. “We’re going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out. … We will never stop fighting to make America great again.”
Joe Biden’s win in Georgia was certified Friday by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp. Kemp did not clearly endorse the results. Instead he stated that the law requires him to “formalize the certification, which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options and a separate recount if they choose.”
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, led Georgia’s recount effort for the Trump campaign. Collins ran in a bitter fight against Loeffler in the Nov. 3 election but has since lent his support to her campaign. Loeffler thanked Collins for that endorsement Friday.
“I have to thank Congressman Doug Collins for his support and his endorsement,” she said as the Gainesville crowd cheered. “Because as conservatives, we’re uniting across the state to get this job done, to show the world that Georgia is a red state.”
Loeffler said it is not just “radical ideas” at stake in the election — “it’s radical candidates like Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. I mean no, thanks.”
Ben Clark of Gainesville said he has not missed an election since he was old enough to vote and also sees a lot at stake in the runoffs.
“It’s really critical that we all get out and vote, whoever you support,” Clark said. “I’m going to do my part.”
Getting out the vote was a key message from candidates Friday, who encouraged early voting.
“We have to get our vote out — early, early, early,” Perdue said. “We cannot wait for Jan. 5. There’s something here in North Georgia called ice storms. I’m worried about that. We need to get out.”
Early voting for the runoffs begins Monday, Dec. 14.
“We need your help to make sure that the road to socialism never runs through the state of Georgia,” Perdue said.
Georgia is preparing for the Jan. 5 runoff as the state and nation are in the eighth month of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pence leads the White House coronavirus task force.
“Our agenda is America greatness. Their agenda is American decline. When we’re opening up America, I promise you, they’re going to be locking down America if they have the chance,” Pence said. “In fact, remember when Democrats said it would be impossible to actually have a vaccine by the end of the year? I’ve got a news flash for you, folks.”
Pfizer formally requested emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine Friday after a study found it appeared to be 95% effective. The United States is now averaging over 1,300 COVID-19 deaths per day, and the country’s death toll has reached about 254,000. Infections since the beginning of the pandemic are at more than 11.8 million.
People’s temperatures were taken as they entered the event Friday, and several other security measures were in place. The trunk and hood of each car were inspected in the parking lot, and people went through metal detectors and had bags searched at the entrance. Representatives from the Secret Service and local law enforcement were also present at the event.