Despite efforts from LGBTQ advocacy organizations to get LGBTQ issues on the docket at last night’s Senatorial debate between Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock, there was no mention of Georgia’s LGBTQ community during the entire hour-long debate.
Loeffler and Warnock took the stage Sunday night (December 6) after Democrat Jon Ossoff debated an empty podium because his opponent, Republican David Perdue, declined to take part in the only debate before the runoff election in January. According to The Guardian, Ossoff said Perdue avoided the debate so as not to “incriminate himself” over suspicious investments in companies set to benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It shows an astonishing arrogance and sense of entitlement for Georgia’s senior US senator to believe he shouldn’t have to debate at a moment like this in our history,” Ossoff said.
In the debate between Loeffler and Warnock, the two candidates discussed topics like the presidential election and their respective COVID-19 responses. However, despite efforts from Georgia Equality and GLAAD, neither candidate was asked about their LGBTQ records.
In an email, GLAAD told Georgia Voice that they had contacted debate moderators imploring them to ask the candidates about their LGBTQ records and issues important to LGBTQ Georgians. The LGBTQ community wasn’t mentioned once, despite evidence that LGBTQ Georgians tipped the scale in President-elect Joe Biden’s favor in November’s general election.
Loeffler has a solid anti-LGBTQ record, which includes hiring anti-LGBTQ staff like Paul Fitzpatrick, donating a portion of her salary to an anti-LGBTQ foster care agency, and introducing legislation that would bar trans students from participating in school sports aligning with their gender identity. She was asked about none of these actions.
The Atlanta Press Club, the organization behind the debate, released the following statement to the Georgia Voice regarding the lack of LGBTQ questions: “The Atlanta Press Club and our debate panel was contacted by many different people and groups suggesting questions to ask the candidates during Sunday’s debates for the U.S. Senate runoff election. Although we would have loved to ask all of them, it simply was not possible within our time constraints. Although the debates did not address questions specific to the LGBTQ community, please be assured it does not diminish the Atlanta Press Club’s support of the LGBTQ community and its importance in Atlanta and in Georgia.”
The candidates did discuss, however, their COVID-19 responses, one of the top issues LGBTQ voters considered when casting their ballot in November. Warnock targeted Loeffler over stock transactions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“You dumped millions of dollars of stock in order to protect your own investments and then weeks later when there came an opportunity to give ordinary Georgians an extra $600 of relief, you said you saw no need and called it counterproductive,” Warnock told Loeffler.
Loeffler responded by saying this was a “lie perpetrated by the left-wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda” without addressing how the statement was a lie. She further contended that since she was appointed to the Senate by Governor Brian Kemp after the retirement of Johnny Isakson, she’s “worked hard to deliver relief to Georgians during this pandemic.”
The candidates also covered the presidential election and claims from Donald Trump that he only lost the election because of voter fraud. When asked multiple times if Trump fairly lost the election, Loeffler dodged the question, saying he had “every right to every legal recourse” and instead addressing his support of both Loeffler and Perdue.
Warnock concluded the debate by claiming all Loeffler was interested in was dividing the country, saying: “It’s dark right now. But morning is on the way. It’s our job, Georgia, to put our shoes on and get ready because there are those engaged in the politics of division. They have no vision, and so they engage in division.”
Watch the full debate here:
Editor’s note: This article was amended December 8, 2020 at 11:41am to include a statement from the Atlanta Press Club.