Democrat Jon Ossoff won his tight Senate race, with both Georgia Democrats defeating their Republican runoff opponents in historic victories for a stunning rebuke of President Donald Trump in a state that had been a Republican stronghold for years. With Ossoff joining Democrat Raphael Warnock in the Senate, their party will be able to take total control of Congress.
Warnock is the first Black person elected to represent Georgia in the Senate and will be one of only three Black people in the Senate once his term begins. Ossoff, 33, would be the youngest member of the Senate.
The results are a testament to the decadeslong political organizing of Black women in Georgia who worked toward expanding the electorate and protecting voting rights in the state.
“It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate. Thank you for the trust that you have placed in me,” Ossoff said in a video streamed online on Wednesday morning. Hours before, the campaign of his opponent, Sen. David Perdue, said it “will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate.”
It is a close race. Decision Desk HQ has projected Ossoff will win. The vote-counting firm currently has Ossoff leading Republican Perdue by about 0.4% of the vote — about 16,000 votes — which is within the 0.5% threshold that allows Perdue to call for a recount. Georgia officials will continue counting the few remaining votes today, which are expected in areas that lean Democrat.
Ossoff’s win would push the Senate into a 50-50 split, with Vice President–elect Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaking vote. The split would effectively give Democrats control of the Senate, removing the chamber from Sen. Mitch McConnell’s iron grip and dramatically expanding the possibilities for President-elect Joe Biden’s first years in office.
A litany of Black women-led voter registration groups like Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project and Black Voters Matter fanned out across the state in recent years to register new voters and protect voters from being purged from rolls. In the weeks ahead of the runoff, Progressive grassroots groups organizing across the state made the shift toward door-knocking and in-person canvassing after the party largely avoided the strategy during the general election because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, on the other hand, spent the intervening two months claiming Georgia’s election was rigged against him — it was not, as the state’s Republican elected leaders frequently reminded him — attacking establishment Republicans in the state, and undermining the Republican base’s faith in the electoral process, and pushing lawsuits that largely focused on invalidating votes in majority Black cities. Perdue and Loeffler, then both serving in the Senate, often echoed Trump’s false claims about election fraud on the campaign trail, and in the final days of the race, they announced that they would support senators who objected to certifying the Electoral College results.
The runoff was defined by Trump’s meddling in the state’s election results after his loss in November and his failed last-ditch attempt to get more direct aid to people in the coronavirus relief package that passed Congress in December.
Ossoff and Warnock both spent the weeks in the lead up to the race hammering Perdue and Loeffler over the delayed coronavirus relief package that had stalled in Congress for months and for their stock trading during their time in the Senate.
The two Democratic challengers consistently pushed Loeffler and Perdue to support larger direct payments for eligible Americans as the pandemic surged in December. In the final weeks of the race, the two Republican senators touted the latest coronavirus relief package, which Trump then briefly refused to sign as he unsuccessfully called on Congress to increase direct payments to $2,000. Ossoff and Warnock, who supported the higher payments, pummeled the Republicans for their failure to actually make them a reality.
Ossoff, an executive of an investigative documentary production company and former aide to Rep. Hank Johnson, gained national attention in 2017 when he ran against Republican Karen Handel in a special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District which was seen as the first referendum on Trump’s presidency. Ossoff lost the 2017 race to Handel by 3.8%.
Warnock has served as the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church since 2005 and often referred to scripture and religious teachings on the campaign trail. Warnock got an early boost out of a crowded field of Democrats from WNBA players who were looking to rebuke Loeffler. As a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream basketball team, Loeffler had been in a public fight with players over their political activism in support of Black Lives Matter.
The Democratic wins in a state where Republicans have typically dominated in statewide elections offer the Democratic Party a road map for building in the South and changing the electoral map for years to come.