Georgia’s Republican senators have conceded defeat in the Jan. 5 runoffs for U.S. Senate, officially giving Democrats the state’s two Senate seats and control of the federal government for at least the first two years of the incoming Biden administration.
Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue conceded to Democrat U.S. Sen.-elect Jon Ossoff Friday afternoon, limiting the Sea Island Republican to just one term that ended on Jan. 3. His announcement came a day after Sen. Kelly Loeffler conceded to Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock after only a year in office.
Strong Democratic get-out the vote efforts, plus the fallout from President Donald Trump’s obsession with election fraud claims, combined to unravel the two incumbents’ campaigns and handed Democrats control of both Senate seats for the first time since 2002.
Ossoff, a 33-year-old Atlanta native who runs an investigative journalism company, is set to become the Senate’s youngest member and Georgia’s first Jewish representative in the chamber. He held a slim but insurmountable lead of nearly 50,000 votes with a few thousand ballots left to be counted late Friday.
“We don’t have to accept that poverty or racism or violence are inevitable or necessary,” Ossoff said. “We can dream about higher and higher heights.”
Warnock, a Savannah native and the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, had built up an even stronger lead than his co-campaigner by roughly 83,000 votes Friday. He will become Georgia’s first Black senator after preaching from the same pulpit once held by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“To everyone out there struggling today, whether you voted for me or not, know this: I see you,” Warnock said. “I hear you. And I will fight for you. I will fight for your family.”
With voter turnout hovering at 4.5 million, the runoffs solidified Georgia’s position as a battleground state with closely fought elections for at least the next decade and particularly in 2022, when Gov. Brian Kemp will likely face Democrat Stacey Abrams in a rematch of the heated and close 2018 gubernatorial election.
The two Senate races drew the eyes of America and the world to Georgia over the past two months since Warnock and Ossoff forced runoffs against their opponents, summoning nearly $1 billion in campaign and outreach spending along with visits from dozens of celebrities and national politicians.
With the stakes high even in normal times, the runoffs barreled forward amid the unusually intense backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and election results in November that saw a Democrat win a presidential contest in Georgia for the first time since 1992.
Both Democrats overcame attempts by Perdue and Loeffler to paint them as socialist candidates too extreme for conservative Georgians through fierce attack ads that sought to tie Ossoff to communist China and portray Warnock as anti-police.
That campaign strategy failed, according to several local analysts who credited the two Democrats for focusing on more hopeful messages that elevated key issues like health care, criminal justice, workers’ rights and the ongoing COVID-19 response.
Perdue, a former corporate executive, and Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman appointed to retired Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat in late 2019, were also hamstrung by their loyalty to Trump as the outgoing president trashed Georgia’s election system over his loss to President-elect Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 general election.
With Congress poised for Democratic majorities in both chambers, the Biden administration now faces an easier road to appointing Cabinet members and pushing through legislative priorities until at least the 2022 mid-term elections. He has nonetheless pledged to take a moderate approach and work with leaders on both sides of the aisle.
“Georgia voters delivered a resounding message [in the runoffs],” Biden said. “They want action on the crises we face and they want it right now. Together, we’ll get it done.”