Democrats win both U.S. Senate run-off elections in Georgia
Wins give Democrats control of the Senate, which will now be split 50-50 between them and Republicans
Georgia Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have won their U.S. Senate run-off elections, giving Democrats control of the Senate, with vice-president-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote in an upper chamber that will soon be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.
Ossoff, 33, was declared the winner late Wednesday afternoon against 71-year-old Republican David Perdue, who held the seat for the past six years and had the strong support of outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump.
Ossoff will be the youngest member of the Senate.
Earlier Wednesday, Warnock won the other run-off race, becoming the first Black senator in Georgia's history.
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 Trump, who made one of his final trips in office to Georgia to rally his loyal base behind Loeffler and Perdue.
The two victories will give the Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, with Republicans holding the other 50 and the vice-president casting the tie-breaking vote. The Democrats also hold an 11-seat majority in the House of Representatives after the November election.
Trump's false claims of voter fraud cast a dark shadow over the run-off elections. The outgoing president raised the prospect that some votes might not be counted even as votes were being cast Tuesday afternoon.
"No evidence of irregularities," said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's top election official, in response to a question from a reporter. "The biggest thing we've seen is from the president's fertile mind of finding fraud where none exists."
Biden congratulates winners
Warnock's victory is a symbol of a striking shift in Georgia's politics as the swelling number of diverse, college-educated voters flex their power in the heart of the Deep South. It follows Biden's victory in November, when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.
Biden praised the races run by Warnock and Ossoff, as well as the voters, in a statement on Wednesday.
"Georgia's voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face, and they want it right now. On COVID-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more," said Biden. "They want us to move, but move together."
Warnock, 51, acknowledged his improbable victory in a message to supporters early Wednesday, citing his family's experience with poverty. His mother, he said, used to pick "somebody else's cotton" as a teenager.
WATCH | Raphael Warnock discusses historic win in Georgia's Senate run-off:
"The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator," he said. "Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible."
His victory marks a "reversal of the old Southern strategy that sought to divide people," Warnock told ABC's Good Morning America.
No concessions yet
Loeffler refused to concede in a brief message to supporters shortly after midnight.
"We've got some work to do here. This is a game of inches. We're going to win this election," said Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago by the state's governor.
Loeffler, who remains a Georgia senator until the results of Tuesday's election are finalized, said she would return to Washington on Wednesday morning to join a small group of senators planning to challenge Congress's vote to certify Biden's victory.
"We are going to keep fighting for you," Loeffler said. "This is about protecting the American dream."
The other race pitted a 71-year-old former business executive who's been in the Senate since 2015 against Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist.
Perdue finished ahead of Ossoff by nearly two percentage points in November's election, but did not reach the state's required 50 per cent threshold to take the seat due to the presence of other candidates, triggering a new vote with the top two contenders.
Georgia counties have until Jan. 15 to certify results of the run-off. The secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, has until Jan. 22 — two days after Biden is inaugurated — to certify statewide results.
In Atlanta's Buckhead neighbourhood, 37-year-old Kari Callaghan said she voted "all Democrat" on Tuesday, an experience that was new for her.
"I've always been Republican, but I've been pretty disgusted by Trump and just the way the Republicans are working," she said. "I feel like for the Republican candidates to still stand there with Trump and campaign with Trump feels pretty rotten. This isn't the conservative values that I grew up with."
But 56-year-old Will James said he voted "straight GOP."
He said he was concerned by the Republican candidates' recent support of Trump's challenges of the presidential election results in Georgia, "but it didn't really change the reasons I voted."
"I believe in balance of power," he said.
Election officials across the country, including the Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, as well as Trump's former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed that there was no widespread fraud in the November election.
Legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, where three Trump-nominated justices preside.
- An earlier version of this story stated that an automatic recount would be triggered if two candidates are separated by 0.5 per cent or less. In fact, a recount is not automatic - a candidate must request it, provided the margin is 0.5 per cent or less.Jan 06, 2021 10:35 AM ET
- An earlier version of this story stated that Jon Ossoff will be the youngest person to be elected to the U.S. Senate since Joe Biden in 1972. In fact, he is the youngest Democrat over that period. Republican Don Nickles was elected top the Senate at age 31 in 1980.Jan 06, 2021 11:35 PM ET
With files from CBC News