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Fact-checking claims by top three candidates in the special US Senate race

Politifact took a close look at the claims by Doug Collins, Kelly Loeffler and Raphael Warnock ahead of the crowded and contentious U.S. Senate race.

ATLANTA — The special election for U.S. Senate in Georgia this year is unique as compared to other senatorial elections in a number of ways. 

The outcome of the race could determine which party takes control of the Senate. The Republicans now hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber.  

First, it marks the second senate election in the same year, which, in and of itself is unique.

Add to that is the sheer number of candidates in the race -- 21 names are on the ballot, each seeking to fill the seat once held by former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned in Dec. 2019 for health reasons. 

Following Isakson's retirement, Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Republican Kelly Loeffler to hold the seat until the special election.

RELATED: Georgia voters will elect two US senators in 2020

According to Politifact, Democratic newcomer Raphael Warnock is leading the race, based on the polling average data as cited by Real Clear Politics. Warnock is pastor of Atlanta's Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In order for any of the candidates to be declared a winner in the race, they must receive 50 percent plus one vote. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters will face-off in a Jan. 5 runoff.

Politifact said the race is rated as a tossup by the Cook Political Report.

Credit: Associated Press
(from left) Incumbent US Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R - Ga.) and her strongest rivals, US Rep. Doug Collins (R-9th Dist., Ga.) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (D).

One of the things that Politifact noted is that Loeffler and Republican U.S. Congressman Doug Collins have attacked Warnock as well as each other. In some of their ads, Loeffler and Collins have argued over which of them is more conservative, they said.

Warnock attacks Loeffler

Warnock has accused Loeffler of using her position to profit from the coronavirus outbreak. Politifact rated the claim as "Half True."

"We have a United States senator, Kelly Loeffler, unelected by the people of Georgia who, when she heard about COVID-19 seemed much more focused on her own portfolio than the people she was sent there to represent," Warnock said on MSNBC. "She profited from the pandemic."

According to Politifact, he was referring to ethics complaints about questionable stock trades by Loeffler and other senators after an early briefing about the COVID-19 threat.

Loeffler denied using non-public information for her financial benefit, and a Senate Ethics Committee investigation found no evidence that she had violated any laws or Senate rules, Politifact said.

Loeffler attacks Collins

In an ad, Loeffler claimed that Collins "repeatedly joined liberal Stacey Abrams to raise taxes ... Kelly’s never voted for a tax increase — and never will." Loeffler was referring to the time that Collins spent with Abrams, a Democrat, while in the Georgia General Assembly.

Politifact rated the claim as "Mostly False."

The Loeffler ad cited a vote by Collins on a piece of transportation legislation, which the ad called "the greatest tax increase in Georgia history," Politifact said.

The legislation did not directly raise taxes, it allowed Georgia residents to vote on whether or not to adopt a tax, they said. In addition, before Loeffler held public office, according to Politifact, she publicly supported a regional transportation tax, saying it was necessary to create jobs.

Collins attacks Loeffler

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, Collins has claimed that Loeffler has a "long history of donating to abortion-on-demand Democrats."

Politifact rated that claim as "Mostly False."

Since 2006, they said, of the more than $2 million in political contributions by Loeffler, $16,000 went to Democrats or liberal causes. The remainder went to Republicans and conservative causes. 

Politifact said the relatively small amount Loeffler donated to Democrats does not prove a connection to any kind of support for abortion rights. Additionally, they said, she has been endorsed in the special election by the National Right to Life Committee and other anti-abortion groups.

Loeffler's claim to conservatism

Politifact examined Loeffler's claim that she is "more conservative than Attila the Hun." 

They did not rank it on their "Truth-O-Meter," since the claim was made in a light-hearted way in her television ad, but her message about being the "more conservative" candidate was serious.

Politifact said Loeffler pointed at ratings that noted her as a "top conservative." At the same time, Collins has challenged that, they said, citing her support of Democrats and Democratic causes.

Politifact spoke with historian Hyun Jin Kim, professor of classics at the University of Melbourne and author of "The Huns," who said that Attila was neither a conservative nor a liberal by modern standards. 

"By Hunnic standards, Attila was a more or less traditional ruler," Kim said.

Attila's top achievements, according to Politifact, were murdering and plundering.

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