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Democrats will control US Senate after Ossoff, Warnock win Georgia runoffs


JANUARY 6, 2021

Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock, right, and Jon Ossoff headline a drive-in voting rally on Dec. 28, 2020, in Stonecrest, Ga. – Jessica McGowan, Getty Images
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democrats recaptured control of the U.S. Senate by winning both Georgia seats up for election Tuesday, giving the party complete control of Congress and President-elect Joe Biden a much easier path to carry out his legislative agenda on climate change, health care and racial justice.

Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock narrowly defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who were both seeking reelection. Warnock was named the winner early Wednesday, followed by Ossoff Wednesday evening.

With the Democratic victories, the Senate will be evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be able to break ties when she assumes office on Jan. 20. Democrats have not held a majority in the Senate since 2014, and House Democrats’ efforts to pass legislation have been thwarted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Warnock’s election made history: He is the first Black man elected as U.S. senator from Georgia and will be only the 11th Black senator in the history of the nation. It also thrust the Peach State into swing-state territory as voters elected Democratic senators and a Democratic president for the first time in decades.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “It feels like a brand new day” and vowed to advance Democratic priorities.

Biden congratulated Warnock and Ossoff on their wins in a statement that looked ahead to a new Democratic majority, calling Schumer the new “majority leader.”

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Biden said. “On COVID-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more. They want us to move, but move together.”

Warnock and Ossoff both appear likely to avoid a recount that could have been requested under Georgia law if the outcome fell within .5%. Out of more than 4.4 million votes cast, Warnock leads Loeffler by 69,968 votes – 1.58% – and Ossoff leads Perdue by 32,410 votes, 0.74%. All precincts have reported, but some outstanding absentee ballots remain in mainly Democratic-leaning counties in the metro Atlanta area.

The last time the Senate was split 50-50 was in 2001, when then-Vice President Dick Cheney, a Republican, broke ties. Control of the chamber then flipped to Democrats in May of that year when Vermont Republican Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party to become an independent caucusing with the Democrats.

Tuesday’s election was a rare double runoff. Ossoff and Warnock ran against Perdue and Loeffler in the Nov. 3 general election, but no candidate in that race passed the 50% threshold under state law to win the Senate seats outright, forcing Tuesday’s runoffs. Democrats last held the Senate in 2014.

Georgia elections officials said turnout Tuesday shattered the previous record for a run-off in the state, including more than 3 million who voted early. Nearly $500 million was spent on campaign ads since Nov. 4, indicative of the significance both parties and special interests placed on the race.

An official counts ballots for Georgia’s Senate runoff election at the Georgia World Congress Center on Jan. 6, 2021, in Atlanta.

Georgia had not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 20 years. But there were concerns among some Republicans that many GOP voters might not show up amid President Donald Trump’s relentless and baseless allegations that widespread voter fraud in Georgia caused his loss to Biden. At one point, Trump questioned the legitimacy of Tuesday’s runoffs, describing them in a tweet Friday as “illegal and invalid.”

Leading up to the election, Trump leveled a barrage of unfounded allegations about his election loss in Georgia. With Trump calling his election outcome rigged, some Republicans feared it might discourage their voters to turnout in the runoff elections.

Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who serves as the state’s voting system implementation manager, told Fox News on Monday that the “spurious” claims of voter fraud spread by Trump and his allies appear to be depressing Republican voter turnout in Tuesday’s election.

“I am afraid that many Republicans have been discouraged by the actions and discussions around the president,” Sterling said. “It’s absolutely a distraction unfortunately, this unforced error on the part of the president. … A lot of people are focusing on Nov. 3 when they should be focusing on Jan. 5.”

Campaigns and outside groups combined to spend $491 million on television ads just since the November election in Georgia, according to the research firm Ad Impact, making it the most expensive pair of Senate races in U.S. history.

Following the playbook that helped Republicans retain control of the Senate after the general election, Loeffler and Perdue attacked their opponents as “radical socialists” and said the nation was at stake with the race.

Ossoff and Warnock slammed Loeffler and Perdue for being part of a Republican-controlled Senate that for months refused to pass additional federal coronavirus relief and wouldn’t stand up to Trump.

Biden campaigned for Ossoff and Warnock just a day before the election, arguing in the last throes of the election that their win would benefit residents in the form of $2,000 direct relief checks to help deal with COVID-19’s economic impact.

Courtesy/Source: This article originally appeared on USA TODAY