Update: The debate has concluded, the replay can be found, here: https://youtu.be/1a4TAtqns5A
ATLANTA -- Candidates in the special election for the U.S. Senate seat held by Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler squared off in their first debate Monday afternoon.
Loeffler faces a large field including Democrat Raphael Warnock and fellow Republican Doug Collins in a race for the seat she was appointed to 10 months ago.
Loeffler fended off attacks from the left and the right during the Atlanta Press Club debate. Loeffler has been an appointed US senator for nearly 10 months but faces challenges from a Republican and a well-funded Democrat in next month’s so-called jungle primary special election.
"Kelly, can you name something President Trump has said or done that you disagree with?" asked Democrat Matt Lieberman.
Disregarding Trump's "locker room talk" of sexually assaulting women, Loeffler's answer was emphatically in the negative.
"No. I am proud to be the only U.S. senator with a 100 percent voting record with President Trump," she said.
And neither could Republican Congressman Collins who tried to climb past Loeffler in his affection for the president.
"Sen. Loeffler can’t get away with her own facts. One hundred percent voting record for Trump?" Collins asked. "She just voted against the continuing (budget) resolution which the president signed. Doesn’t look like a hundred percent to me, Sen. Loeffler. Maybe your math is wrong or maybe your cue card’s wrong."
The Atlanta Press Club debate was a six-candidate affair. But Collins and Loeffler, fighting for a runoff spot, targeted each other.
"Do you still have the $56,000 portrait of Chairman Mao hanging in your foyer as seen on social media?" Collins asked while trying to tie Loeffler's business interests with the Chinese government.
Loeffler responded with indignation.
"You know what? You’ve attacked my hair, my makeup, how I talk, my clothes, where I’m from. You’ve lied about me. You’ve lied about my family. Here’s the truth. I’m here because I’ve earned everything I’ve got," said Loeffler.
Loeffler's husband, Jeff Sprecher, owns the company that runs the New York Stock Exchange. His wealth has been estimated at over a half-billion dollars.
"I’ve never mentioned anything personally about her hair, features, anything else. But it’s amazing what she’ll talk about me," Collins answered. "And she's spent over $35 million doing it."
Loeffler defended spending $25 million of her and her husband’s personal fortune on her campaign, saying “you cannot put a price on the American dream.”
Raphael Warnock is the Democrat leading the field, according to last week’s 11Alive poll -- closely followed by Loeffler and Collins. It also showed 12 percent still undecided followed by a combined 11 percent for Democrats Matt Lieberman and Ed Tarver.
"What we’re seeing is the typical bickering we see among Washington politicians," Warnock said. "Collins and Loeffler attacking each other using these code words."
The debate was held virtually with candidates joining by video from separate locations because of the coronavirus pandemic.