Two Democratic candidates in Senate runoff races in the state of Georgia declared victory in their respective campaigns on Wednesday, after vote totals in the state showed them narrowly leading two Republican incumbents.
Raphael Warnock defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler by a margin of around 64,000 votes as of Wednesday afternoon, a difference of about 1.7 percent out of 4.4 million ballots cast in the state. He was declared the winner of the race by most media outlets late on Tuesday evening.
Jon Ossoff defeated David Perdue by a margin of around 25,000 votes or just over half a percent with 98 percent of the votes counted as of 4:40 Eastern Time, according to The New York Times.
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The majority of votes that have yet to be counted are from Democratic-leaning areas in the state, and are widely expected to add to both Democratic candidates’ leads.
Most media did not initially declare Ossoff to be the winner of the race, due to how close it was as of Wednesday morning. However, later in the day and as more votes came in, The Associated Press, The New York Times, TV networks, and other media outlets declared Ossoff the winner of the race.
Hours before most media outlets called the race for Ossoff, one Georgia election official had already signaled during a press conference on Wednesday that Ossoff would prevail over Perdue when the vote count was finished.
“Senator to be, probably, Ossoff,” Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, said while speaking before reporters.
Sterling added that he had seen no evidence of irregularities in the elections in the two races.
With both Ossoff and Warnock now being declared the winners of their respective elections, there is now a 50-50 tie in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans. Control of the “upper chamber” of Congress, however, will go to Democrats, as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will provide the tie-breaker vote in her constitutional role as president of the Senate.
With a supportive Senate and a House of Representatives also controlled by Democrats, President-elect Joe Biden will likely have a much easier time pushing his legislative agenda. Biden will also have less pushback against his political appointees and judicial nominations with the Senate under Democratic control.
The election is historic, as Warnock will become the first Black person elected to the Senate from the state of Georgia. Ossoff, at age 33, will also become the chamber’s youngest member.
Warnock gave a victory speech in which he addressed some of the issues on voters’ minds. “We can beat this pandemic with science and common sense … we can move closer to justice with empathy and understanding, passion and purpose,” he promised.
“I am so honored by the faith that you have shown in me,” Warnock said in his speech, adding, “and I promise you this: I am going to the Senate to work for Georgia, all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election.”
Ossoff also delivered a victory speech on Wednesday morning expressing appreciation to those who made his victory possible.
“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.
President Donald Trump predictably blasted the results of the election, baselessly questioning their legitimacy in a number of tweets on Wednesday morning.
“They just happened to find 50,000 ballots late last night,” Trump said. “The USA is embarrassed by fools. Our Election Process is worse than that of third world countries!”
There is no evidence whatsoever to support Trump’s baseless claim that the tallying of votes that took place in Georgia on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning involved anything but legitimate ballots being counted by elections officials.
Many analysts have emphasized the importance of the elections’ results, juxtaposing them with Republican lawmakers’ various attempts to suppress the vote in Georgia in recent years, particularly among Black communities and other communities of color in the state. Investigative reporter Greg Palast, for instance, speaking to Truthout about the runoff races, noted that the elections probably shouldn’t have been as close as they ended up being.
“The Ossoff race shouldn’t be close,” Palast said. “As MLK III told me, Georgia’s a blue state, if only they’d let everyone vote. It’s only close because of the purge of 198,000 voters by the state’s new Jim Crow political hacks, the mail-in ballots disqualified, the closing of polling stations in Black neighborhoods, the piles of provisional ballots junked… and that’s just a small part of the list.”
“No matter the outcome, the war for the right to vote ain’t over,” Palast added.
Others gave recognition to the grassroots effort in the state that helped produce the wins for Warnock and Ossoff, noting that those efforts made it possible to overcome obstacles in voting.
“Despite the unfounded claims of fraud leveraged at diverse voters across the state, deep investments in long-term grassroots organizing overwhelmed a system of voter suppression in this election,” movement journalist Anoa Changa said to Truthout. “It is no coincidence that Senator-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff expanded on Biden’s lead in the state,” Changa added, noting that “rural Black voters and voters of color made extraordinary gains” in the state.
“The innovative outreach by organizations like Mijente, the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and 9to5 Georgia relied on culturally relevant engagement that worked with communities instead of talking at people,” Changa added.
Many gave specific commendations to former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who lost in a narrow and contested election in 2018, for her leadership in the state and grassroots organization efforts.
“Democrats must profusely thank activist Stacey Abrams, who has mobilized more Democratic voters in Georgia than either party thought possible,” opinion columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote on Twitter.
“All praise and appreciation belongs to organizers and volunteers that won these two U.S. Senate seats,” Georgia state representative Brenda Lopez Romero told Truthout, particularly “those that have worked well over a decade engaging, educating, and advocating for voter access. Georgia’s elections results in 2020 are the fruit of their labor.”
Note: This article has been updated to acknowledge the widespread decision of media outlets to declare Ossoff’s victory on Wednesday afternoon.