- Democrat Raphael Warnock has defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in one of two Georgia Senate runoffs.
- Warnock, senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, will be Georgia’s first Black Senator.
- The other US Senate runoff between GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is still too early to call.
- If Democrats win both runoffs, the Senate will be divided evenly between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, leaving Vice-president Harris as the tie-breaker and giving Democrats the majority.
- If Perdue wins reelection in the other Georgia runoff, the Senate will remain in GOP hands.
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Democrat Raphael Warnock will defeat Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler in one of Georgia’s two US Senate runoff elections, Insider and Decision Desk HQ project.
Warnock is now set to become Georgia’s first Black Senator.
Georgia’s other Senate runoff between Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is still too early to call.
Counties are reporting votes at different speeds, and counting early, mail-in, and Election Day votes at different times. Due to the rise in mail-in and early voting compared to previous elections, the result of the Ossoff-Perdue may not be known until Wednesday.
Two US Senate runoffs took place in formerly safe-Republican Georgia, which in November voted for a Democratic presidential nominee, President-elect Joe Biden, for the first time since 1992.
In Georgia, if no candidate earns over 50% of the vote in a given election, the race goes to a runoff between the top-two voter getters. No third-party or write-in candidates are permitted in runoff elections in order to ensure that a candidate earns over 50% of the vote.
Republican Sen. David Perdue, a former business executive first elected in 2014, is running for a second term against Democrat Jon Ossoff. Ossoff is a 33-year-old CEO of an investigative documentary filmmaking company and a former US House staffer who was the Democratic nominee for the June 2017 special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy Atlanta businesswoman and owner of the WNBA team the Atlanta Dream, was appointed in late 2019 to replace former Sen. Jonny Isakson, who retired before the end of his term due to health concerns.
In November, Loeffler competed in a special jungle election with 20 other candidates to serve out the rest of Isakson’s term, which was set to expire in 2022.
Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, emerged from the jungle election as the top-two vote-getters.
Warnock led with 32% of the vote compared to 26% for Loeffler and 20% for GOP Rep. Doug Collins, the third-highest vote-getter.
The worsening COVID-19 pandemic, including the high-stakes effort to get a coronavirus relief bill passed through Congress and the failed push for $2,000 stimulus checks, has shaped the dynamics of the runoff races.
Themes of class and economic status have also played a defining role in the race. Ossoff and Warnock accused Loeffler and Perdue, who both have high levels of personal wealth and are prolific investors, of using their positions in the Senate for profit, including with pandemic-related stock trades. Both Senators denied any wrongdoing.
In turn, Loeffler and Perdue have tied Ossoff and Warnock to policies like defunding the police, a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and other progressive priorities in order to paint both as advancing a socialist agenda.
Loeffler, in particular, hammered Warnock as “radical” in debates and ads, and said Warnock would be the first “Marxist” Senator. She has zeroed in on comments Warnock has made during sermons and guests that have appeared at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, as well as Warnock’s personal life.
The two Georgia runoffs will decide control of the US Senate and determine how much of Biden’s agenda will feasibly stand to be passed by Congress.
Going into the runoffs, Republicans control 51 seats compared to 48 for Democrats (Perdue’s term technically expired at noon on January 3 pending the outcome of his runoff race, leaving the Senate with 99 members). The Democrats flipped two Senate seats in Arizona and Colorado in November, but lost former Sen. Doug Jones’ seat in Alabama.
If Perdue wins Georgia’s other Senate runoff, the Senate will be comprised of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.
But if the Democrats win both seats, the composition of the Senate will be 50-50, with Democratic Vice-president elect Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. Because of Harris’ role as president of the US Senate, Democrats would hold the majority in the chamber.
The winner of the Ossoff-Perdue race will serve a full six-year term and won’t be up for reelection again until 2026.
But because the Loeffler-Warnock race was technically a special election, Warnock will have to prepare to run again in 2022 for a full term.
The runoffs were also an inflection point in an ongoing and bitterly contentious fight between different factions of the GOP following Trump’s narrow presidential election loss in Georgia.
Trump and his allies waged an all-out assault on the integrity of the state’s election process and continue to insist he would have won if not for massive fraud — even after a risk-limiting audit that included a hand recount of all five million ballots cast in the presidential race and a subsequent machine recount requested by the Trump campaign affirmed Biden’s victory.
Trump has spent weeks publicly attacking Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for their refusal to echo his unfounded allegations of massive election fraud, with Loeffler and Perdue also calling on Raffensperger to step down as he staunchly defended the integrity of Georgia’s election.
On January 2, Trump called Raffensperger to explicitly pressure him to overturn the twice-certified Georgia election. In a stunning hour-long phone call, a recording of which was obtained and published by The Washington Post, Trump unsuccessfully pleaded with Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” for him and regurgitated long-debunked conspiracy theories and misinformation about the election.