ATLANTA – Updated on Wednesday @ 11:03 a.m.:
Democrat Raphael Warnock won one of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs Wednesday, becoming the first Black senator in his state’s history and putting the Senate majority within the party’s reach.
A pastor who spent the past 15 years leading the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. It was a stinging rebuke of outgoing President Donald Trump, who made one of his final trips in office to Georgia to rally his loyal base behind the state’s Republican candidates.
In the other race, Democrat Jon Ossoff held a small lead over incumbent Republican David Perdue, though it was too early to call the race. Under Georgia law, a trailing candidate may request a recount when the margin of an election is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage points.
If Ossoff wins, Democrats will have complete control of Congress, strengthening President-elect Joe Biden’s standing as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20. A Democratic sweep would also make it more difficult for Republicans to block Biden’s ambitious progressive agenda, along with his Cabinet picks and judicial nominations.
Georgia voters on Tuesday are deciding the balance of power in Congress in a pair of high-stakes Senate runoff elections that will help determine President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to enact what could be the most progressive governing agenda in generations.
Democrats must win both of the state’s Senate elections to gain the Senate majority. In that scenario, the Senate would be equally divided 50-50 with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker for Democrats.
Polls close at 7 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. CST Tuesday, but the final results may not be known for a day or two because of the expected close race and a state law that prevents Georgia election officials from tallying mail-in votes before polls close. See the up-to-the-minute election results below, followed by details on the candidates.
Pastor challenging senator appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill remaining two years of term of Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned in late 2019.
(2,656 / 2,656)
Documentary filmmaker challenging incumbent senator for a six-year term.
(2,656 / 2,656)
The Democrats secured a narrow House majority and the White House during November’s general election.
Republicans are unified against Biden’s plans for health care, environmental protection and civil rights, but some fear that outgoing President Donald Trump’s brazen attempts to undermine the integrity of the nation’s voting systems may discourage voters in Georgia.
Georgia’s January elections, necessary because no Senate candidates received a majority of the general-election votes, have been unique for many reasons, not least because the contenders essentially ran as teams, even campaigning together sometimes.
More than 3 million Georgians have already voted either early in-person or via absentee ballots. That’s more than 60% of the nearly 5 million who voted in November’s presidential election.
One contest features Democrat Raphael Warnock, who serves as the senior pastor of the Atlanta church where slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. grew up and preached. The 51-year-old Warnock was raised in public housing and spent most of his adult life preaching in Baptist churches.
Warnock is facing Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago by the state’s Republican governor. She is only the second woman to represent Georgia in the Senate, although race has emerged as a campaign focus far more than gender. Loeffler and her allies have seized on some snippets of Warnock’s sermons at the historic Black church to cast him as extreme. Dozens of religious and civil rights leaders have pushed back.
The other election pits 71-year-old former business executive David Perdue, who held the Senate seat until his term officially expired on Sunday, against Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist. At just 33 years old, Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member if elected. He first rose to national prominence in 2017 when he launched an unsuccessful House special election bid.
Even a closely divided Democratic Senate wouldn’t guarantee Biden everything he wants, given chamber rules that require 60 votes to move most major legislation. But if Democrats lose even one of Tuesday’s contests, Biden would have little shot for swift up-or-down votes on his most ambitious plans to expand government-backed health care coverage, strengthen the middle class, address racial inequality and combat climate change. A Republican-controlled Senate also would create a rougher path for Biden’s Cabinet picks and judicial nominees.
The elections mark the formal finale to the turbulent 2020 election season more than two months after the rest of the nation finished voting. The stakes have drawn nearly $500 million in campaign spending to a once solidly Republican state that now finds itself as the nation’s premier battleground.