Chase Oliver, a libertarian, will not win Georgia’s Senate race.
However, the 37-year-old self-described former Democrat could command enormous national attention, influencing the election night outcome and potential next round in a hotly contested race that will help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate in the final two years of President Joe Biden’s term.
In the main race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, Oliver is the third name on the ballot.
In most states, Oliver would be an afterthought. However, Georgia law requires an outright majority to be elected to statewide office. With polls indicating a close race between Warnock and Walker, Oliver may not need a large share of the vote to force a runoff. It’s a scenario that played out in Georgia’s two Senate races in 2020, both won by Democrats, giving their party the tiniest of Senate majorities — 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as a tiebreaker.
The possibility of an encore grows as Walker struggles to navigate his rocky past, including reports that the staunch anti-abortion Republican paid for the abortion of a then-girlfriend who later gave birth to their child.
“I think there are a lot of Republicans who believe he’s not the best person to advocate for the policies of limited government, keeping spending under control, and lowering taxes,” Oliver said.
Oliver was scheduled to debate Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, who won his seat in a special election in 2021 and is now running for a full six-year term. Walker, a first-time candidate who made his name in college and professional football, declined an invitation to the Atlanta Press Club forum. He will be represented by an empty podium under the club’s rules.
Oliver was not included because he did not meet the polling threshold set by the organizers.
If a runoff is required, it will be held on Dec. 6, kicking off a four-week campaign after the general election on Nov. 8. That’s half the time it took Warnock and now-Sen. Jon Ossoff to defeat their Republican opponents in Georgia’s runoff election two years ago.
Neither the Warnock nor Walker campaigns will discuss a possible second round publicly.
“We’re focused on completing the work by November 8,” Walker spokesman Will Kiley said.
The outcome of competitive races in Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and elsewhere will determine whether a Georgia runoff will again decide the Senate majority.
Oliver hopes to capitalize on the attention to raise awareness of Libertarians as a third option for voters across the political spectrum, whether they are limited-government conservatives or social liberals who support abortion and LGBTQ rights. He stated that he was once an anti-war Democrat who became disillusioned with President Barack Obama’s failure to limit US military interventions.
Since 2014, Libertarians in Georgia have received an average of 2% of the vote in races for governor and U.S. senator.
Even if Walker provides Oliver with the best opportunity to increase his share, Oliver’s candidacy would not necessarily benefit Warnock in the long run.
In November 2020, Libertarian Senate candidate Shane Hazel received 2.3% of the vote in a race against Republican incumbent David Perdue. Perdue led Ossoff in the general election by about 88,000 votes but finished with 49.7% of the nearly 5 million votes, mere thousands from a majority that would have meant a second term and a continued GOP majority in the Senate.
With a second chance, Ossoff defeated Perdue by about 55,000 votes and was elected to a full term.
On the same night as Ossoff, Warnock defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler for his seat. However, Loeffler and Warnock had advanced to a runoff from a 20-candidate special election field that included candidates from all parties, so neither had a clear majority in the first round.
“It means that there were enough voters who felt like they weren’t being listened to,” Oliver said if he forces a runoff this time. And I hope that whoever wins the election eventually listens to those voices and realizes that they must represent all of Georgia, not just a partisan interest.”