By Stacy M. Brown
Just days before the Dec. 6 Georgia Senate runoff election, the state’s capital and most populous city surprisingly proved like an old Christmas fable: not much appeared stirring.
“It’s almost as if there isn’t a major election coming,” Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes relayed from Atlanta through an internal Slack message. “There are literally no campaign signs anywhere,” Rolark Barnes stated.
Throughout her two-day visit to the Peach State, Rolark Barnes noticed only a few pro-Herschel Walker signs and “a sprinkling” of promotional material for Democratic Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock.
“It’s almost as if there is a law that prohibits campaign signs,” she said. However, an abundance of television commercials continues to run.
Indeed, the city of Atlanta does restrict campaign signs.
It’s illegal without a permit to place them in a public right-of-way, including intersections, public roads, bridges, and sidewalks. The city fines any campaign in violation, and authorities remove such signs.
Still, the bigger picture remains the election that could either strengthen Democrats’ hold on the upper chamber of Congress or provide Republicans a fighting chance of blocking federal and even Supreme Court nominations.
During the midterm election, Democrats flipped one seat when Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. The win assured Democrats of at least 50 seats and the majority because Vice President Kamala Harris counted as the tie-breaking vote.
However, a 51-49 edge could allow Democrats freedom from conservative West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who blocked some of President Joe Biden’s agenda during the administration’s first two years.
With 51 votes, Democrats can now afford to lose a member and still pass legislation (Although, with Republicans seizing control of the House, it’s unlikely any meaningful legislation will pass during the next two years).
“Democrats need to gain every seat they can from the 2022 election cycle. Holding the Senate this year is a massive achievement, but keeping it again in two years’ time will be a gargantuan task,” Political Analyst Chris Cillizza wrote.
“Democrats would much rather start the 2024 cycle with a bit of cushion provided by a Warnock win.”
An evenly divided Senate “slows everything down,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remarked. “So, it makes a big difference to us.”
Further, in a 50-50 Senate, committees are evenly split between the two parties, which causes additional steps when a vote is tied. That forces the party in the majority to hold votes on the Senate floor to move bills or nominees forward.
With a Warnock win, Democrats would stand in position to hold an extra seat on every committee, making it much easier to move nominees or legislation on party-line votes.
“It’s always better with 51 because we’re in a situation where you don’t have to have an even makeup of the committees,” Biden said after Fetterman’s victory. “And so that’s why it’s important, mostly. But it’s just simply better. The bigger the numbers, the better.”
With a 51-seat majority, Vice President Harris doesn’t have to remain close to Washington when the Senate votes.
Harris already has broken 26 ties in two years in office, doubling what former Vice President Mike Pence did during his four-year term.
Earlier this year, Harris reminded everyone that the nation’s first vice president, John Adams, had cast 29 tie-breaking votes during his two terms from 1789 to 1797.
“So, as vice president, I’m also the president of the United States Senate. And in that role, I broke John Adams’s record of casting the most tie-breaking votes in a single term,” Harris said in September.
“This kid who was born in Oakland, California, and graduated from an HBCU just broke the record of John Adams. We should all fully appreciate how history can take a turn.”