Democrats moved within striking distance of taking control of the U.S. Senate early Wednesday, after Raphael Warnock was declared the winner in one of two contested Georgia Senate runoff races by the Associated Press and other news organizations.
With 99% of precincts reporting, Warnock led Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler by nearly 47,000 votes.
The race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff still remained too close to call—with the candidates separated by 9,500 votes out of nearly 4.4 million cast.
Warnock, a pastor who spent 15 years leading a church where Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach, will be the first Black Senator from Georgia. He will also be the third Black Senator in a chamber lacking in diversity, joining Republican Tim Scott and Democrat Cory Booker. Kamala Harris, the only Black woman serving in the Senate, will move on to be Vice President later this month.
As of midnight, Loeffler—who was appointed to the Senate to fill a vacancy one year ago—had refused to concede to Warnock, telling supporters, “This is a game of inches. We’re going to win this election.”
Ossoff will need to win his race, as well, for for President-elect Joe Biden to enter the White House Jan. 20 with his party in control of both chambers of Congress. An Ossoff win would split the upper chamber 50-50 but, as Vice President, Harris would be able to cast a tie-breaking vote. That would smooth the path for the incoming administration’s agenda on everything from cabinet appointments to national crises, like the coronavirus pandemic that continues to surge through the U.S.
The Democratic victory comes amid President Donald Trump’s ongoing refusal to accept the results of the November presidential election. Over the weekend, Trump called Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ask him to “find” votes that would overturn the state’s presidential election results. In an audio recording of the call first reported by the Washington Post, Trump propagated unfounded claims that the presidential race’s results were in doubt, despite having been certified by the state’s top election officials, who are Republicans.
Following attacks by Trump attacks on state officials like Gov. Brian Kemp and Raffensperger, some members of his party worried this would depress their turnout, dissuading voters from casting a ballot if they incorrectly believed it wouldn’t be counted. Trump continued to cast doubt—without evidence—as the results of the runoff came in.
The day before the runoffs, Loeffler announced she would object to certifying the results of the Electoral College in Congress on Wednesday. Perdue, whose first term has technically ended and whose campaign announced on Dec. 31 that he would quarantine after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, is urging his colleagues to object on Wednesday. Both Republican candidates ran as Trump supporters.
Warnock’s win helps solidify the status of Georgia, once reliably red, as a new battleground state. Biden won Georgia by less than 12,000 votes, in no small part to Democrats’ years-long organizing efforts to bring new voters to the polls.
We did our part.
— LaTosha Brown (@MsLaToshaBrown) January 6, 2021
Black organizers were key to the victory. “We did our part,” tweeted LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a grassroots, progressive organization focused on increasing Black voter engagement, as results came in. Its efforts included a “Let’s Do It Again” bus tour intended to reach Black voters throughout the state in the leadup to the runoffs. As results came in, the Cook Political Report reported Black voter turnout was high.
“We are going to continue to see a diversification of the state of Georgia,” Stacey Abrams, who ran a close 2018 race for Georgia governor and founded voting rights organization Fair Fight, told MSNBC. She credited organizers working with minority voters. “What that will signal is that any party that wants to be competitive in this state is going to have to reckon with what it means to address the issues of healthcare, of jobs, and of justice.”
Democrat Raphael Warnock Wins Georgia Runoff, Putting Democrats in Striking Distance of Senate Control The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ TIME.