ATLANTA — Georgia has two Democrat senators and the Democratic Party has control of the U.S. Senate.
After a chaotic November general election, Georgia voters once again went blue.
Both Democrat candidates for U.S. Senate Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated their Republican opponents in the highly publicized Jan. 5 runoff, clinching the two Senate seats up for grabs and de-facto control of the upper chamber.
Warnock, a Savannah native and senior pastor at Martin Luther King Jr.’s church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, had a solid lead Wednesday morning over Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, becoming the first Black senator to represent Georgia.
Warnock’s lead over Loeffler came about 11 p.m. election night after a large batch of votes was uploaded from DeKalb County — one of the bluest counties in the state. Nearing 1 a.m., Jan. 6, Warnock declared himself the victor and addressed Georgia — and a closely watching nation.
Major media outlets called the race in the Democrats favor early Wednesday morning and by 9 a.m. Warnock solidified his lead by about 53,000 votes.
Ossoff, who is set to become Georgia’s first Jewish senator and the youngest member of the current Senate, and Republican incumbent David Perdue jockeyed for the lead as votes continued to be tallied, but by Wednesday morning, the Democrat had overtaken the Republican by more than 16,000 votes. At 8 a.m., he declared victory.
The Associated Press called the race for Ossoff around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday at which point he had a lead of just under 25,000 votes.
Their wins come just after President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Peach State over President Donald Trump, which made him the first Democratic presidential candidate backed by Georgia voters since 1992.
With both Georgia’s Senate seats expected to be filled by Democrats, the Senate is split down the middle between the two parties, giving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote on any and all legislation — from further COVID-19 relief to environmental action.
‘A new Georgia'
Targeting new and minority voters, Democrats spent the nine weeks leading up to the runoff election day campaigning on expanded health care access, generous COVID-19 relief and revitalizing a federal voting rights measure in honor of former Congressman John Lewis.
Both continuously highlighted Republican failure to control the coronavirus pandemic, which is still spreading rapidly in Georgia and throughout the country.
The pair, who ran essentially as a Democratic ticket, promised “a new Georgia” and a new chapter for America if elected, calling for the nation which has been deeply divided by the current administration to reunite.
The Georgia candidates were aided by high-profile politicos from former president Barrack Obama to Biden and Harris themselves. They energized voters in Democratic strongholds, particularly the metro Atlanta suburbs, where the changing political climate has given the party an edge.
Democrats were also able to run-up their lead with use of mail-in ballots, while Republicans pushed their supporters away from the voting method.
While Georgia’s flip from red to blue has shocked the nation, on-the-ground organizers could have predicted this was coming. Black politicians, like Stacey Abrams and now deceased Congressman John Lewis, along with voter mobilization groups have been praised as the harbingers of the change which has taken years of work and billions of dollars.
"We were told that we couldn’t win this election. But tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible,” Warnock said in his remarks early Wednesday. "Georgia, I am honored by the faith that you have shown in me. And I promise you this tonight. I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia.”
Before his victory over Perdue was officially called by media outlets, Ossoff, too, addressed Georgians and thanked them for sending him to the Senate.
"I want to thank the people of Georgia for participating in this election,” he said Wednesday morning. “Everybody who cast your ballot, everybody who put your faith and confidence in our democracy's capacity to deliver the representation that we deserve.”
Ossoff and Warnock were painted as “radicals” promoting a “socialist agenda” by their Republican opponents — Warnock a particular target of the attacks surrounding his past sermons.
Despite Republican exaggerated threats that the progressive candidates will misrepresent Georgians in the Senate, Warnock defeated Loeffler out of the .5% margin in which she can request a recount.
With a slimmer vote margin between Ossoff and Perdue, the outcomes will likely be within the range of a recount upon the request of the incumbent.
Republicans in disarray
Both GOP candidates in the Jan. 5 runoff focused on rallying President Trump’s most loyal supporters in their desperate attempts to hold the Senate majority.
But Trump’s outrage since the general election caused chaos for Republicans who faced the threat of their base refusing to turnout at the polls after the president continually decried the validity of Georgia’s election system.
The days leading up to the election were filled with obstacles for the two created by the lame duck president himself. Democrats capitalized on leaked audio of Trump demanding Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” enough votes to make him the winner of the presidential election in the state.
But worry started early on in the nine-week sprint to Jan. 5, with Trump’s first visit to Valdosta, when he spent a majority of his nearly two-hour speech not stumping for Loeffler and Perdue, but denying the outcome of the presidential election.
The outcome of the two Senate races coincidentally coincides with the day the Congress is set to formally accept states’ electoral college votes — a coalition of Republican House and Senate members planning to object.
Loeffler, who lost her reelection to her appointed seat, announced at a rally with President Donald Trump in Dalton on Monday that she will object to the count. Perdue, who’s term has already expired, is unable to vote but said that he would have.
Loeffler’s loss is also a hit to Gov. Brian Kemp who appointed her to the seat over the requests from Trump that he go with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins instead. The Republican governor has become the newest victim of Trump’s outrage over the presidential election outcome.
Both Loeffler and Perdue refused to concede to their Democratic rivals and attempted to keep GOP faith in supply by reminding supporters that not all the votes have been tallied and insisting that the needle will swing back in their favors. Republican refusal to accept the will of the voters a new standard set by the president..