Democrats won both Georgia’s senate seats – and with them, the U.S. Senate majority – as the final vote counted on Wednesday, earning President Donald Trump a stunning defeat during his last days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda.
Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers representing the diversity of their party’s developing coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1992.
Warnock, who served as pastor of the same church in Atlanta where civic leader Martin Luther King Jr. preached, becomes the first African American from Georgia to be elected to the Senate. And Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the youngest member of the senate.
Their success is a symbol of a striking shift in Georgia’s politics as the growing number of different college-educated voters bend their power in the heart of the Deep South.
This week’s election marks the formal finale of the turbulent 2020 election period. The unusually high stakes turned Georgia, once a solid Republican state, into one of the country’s main battlefields during the last days of Trump’s presidency – and probably beyond.
In an emotional address early Wednesday, Warnock promised to work for all Georgians, whether they voted for him or not, citing his personal experience of the American dream. His mother, he said, used to pick “someone else’s cotton” as a teenager.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick someone else’s cotton chose her youngest son to be a senator in the United States,” he said. “Tonight we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he described his gain as a “reversal of the old Southern strategy that sought to divide people.”
Loeffler will remain a senator in Georgia until the results of Tuesday’s election are final, returning to Washington on Wednesday morning to join a small group of senators planning to challenge Congress’ vote to secure Biden’s victory.
Georgia’s second run-off election pitted Perdue, a 71-year-old former business executive who holds his Senate seat until his term expires on Sunday, against Ossoff, a former congressional assistant and journalist.
“This campaign is about health and jobs and justice for the people of this state – for all the people of this state,” Ossoff said in a speech broadcast on social media Wednesday morning. “Whether you were for me or against me, I will be for you in the US Senate. I will serve all the people of the state. ”
Incorrect voting rights
Trump’s false allegations of voter fraud cast a dark shadow over the run – off election, which was held only because no candidate reached the 50% threshold in the general election. He attacked the state’s chief of staff in the run-up to the election and raised the prospect that some votes might not be counted even when the votes were decided on Tuesday afternoon.
Republican government officials on the ground reported no significant problems.
Both contests tested whether the political coalition that pushed up Biden’s November victory was an anti-Trump anomaly or part of a new election landscape. To win Tuesday’s election – and in the future – Democrats needed strong African-American support.
Based on his popularity among black voters, among other groups, Biden won Georgia’s 16 ballots with about 12,000 votes out of 5 million in November.
Trump’s allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election, while merciless, gave rise to Republican voters in Georgia. About 7 out of 10 agreed with his false claim that Biden was not the legitimately elected president, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,600 voters in the run-off election.
Election officials across the country, including Republican governors of 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. Almost all of the legal challenges posed by Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two dismissed by the Supreme Court, where three Trump-nominated courts preside.
Publicly and privately, some Republicans acknowledged that Trump’s months of pressure to undermine the integrity of the country’s electoral system may have contributed to the GOP’s losses in Georgia.
“It turns out that it’s not a good way to show your voters to tell voters that the election was rigged,” said Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican and a frequent Trump critic.
Even with Trump’s claims, voters in both parties were attracted to the polls because of the high stakes. AP VoteCast found that 6 out of 10 voters in Georgia say the party’s control was the Senate’s most important factor in their vote.
Turnout exceeded both sides’ expectations.
Already before Tuesday, Georgia had crushed its turnout for a runoff with more than 3 million votes by mail or during personal advance voting in December. Including Tuesday’s vote, finally, more people are voting in the runoff than voted in Georgia’s 2016 presidential election.
Many in Georgia’s large African American community were ecstatic when they woke up to news of Warnock’s victory on Wednesday.
Tracey Bailey, a 58-year-old deputy community manager at an apartment complex in central Atlanta, said she jumped for joy.
“It will be good for Georgia, and it will be good for our black society as a whole,” she said. “I think he’s going to be a fair guy for the people, and he is for all people.”