Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock triumphed over the Republican incumbents in Georgia Wednesday, effectively giving Democrats control of Congress.
Ossoff’s race was called by NBC and ABC as protesters, spurred on by President Donald Trump, stormed the Capitol, sending lawmakers into lockdown and prompting a standoff with guns drawn in the building. A day of jubilation for Democrats was marred by the chaos and fear that the protesters would make good on the threats that have been circulating in “Stop The Steal” MAGA communities online.
It was a violent end to the Trump movement that lost a presidential election and the Senate majority in a matter of months.
While Democrats won’t technically have the Senate majority, the 50-50 split means that Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will get the tie-breaking vote. It’s the first time the Democratic party will control both chambers of Congress and the White House in 11 years.
Warnock got over the line first at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning as called by networks and the Associated Press, dispatching with Sen. Kelly Loeffer (R-GA) a year after she was appointed to her seat. The Democrat won 50.6 percent of the vote with an expected 98 percent or votes tallied, per the AP.
Ossoff’s race against former Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) was closer, though the Democrat finished ahead later on Wednesday with an assist from some slower-counting metro areas.
When ABC and NBC projected the race shortly after 4:00 p.m. EST, Ossoff led Perdue with 50.21 percent of the vote with an estimated 98 percent of the vote counted, according to Associated Press tallies.
Both men gave victory speeches before their races were called by the networks. Warnock traced his familial background that led to his historic election as the first Black senator from Georgia, promising to govern for all.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” Warnock said in an emotional speech early Wednesday morning.
Ossoff, in his speech, traced the contours of the pandemic and economic crisis, looking ahead to relief.
Wednesday’s outcome is a break with the historical trend of Republican victories in Georgia, after the party won six of the last seven statewide runoffs. On the heels of Biden’s November victory in the state, Georgia has firmly established itself as the country’s newest true swing state.
Ossoff and Warnock campaigned hard on health care and the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, promising economic relief. President Donald Trump gave the Democrats an easy last-minute economic appeal by suddenly deciding to demand $2,000 stimulus checks only to have Republicans craftily block their passage. Biden made the checks the linchpin of his Monday rally in Atlanta, promising that the Democrats’ election “will put an end to the block in Washington on that $2,000 stimulus check.”
The race was difficult to quantify from beginning to end, due to scant high-quality polling in the state. Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia, characterized the double Democratic win as “a little bit of a surprise.” Still, there seemed to be hopeful indicators for Democrats in the early voting data, including an increased share of the Black vote since the general election. It also pointed to enthusiasm, with consistently high turnout.
“I am so impressed by the turnout,” Kondik told TPM. “This has to be one of the most engaged electorates of any non-presidential races in modern history.”
Republicans failed to compensate for that early lead on Election Day.
Trump’s constant stream of “rigged election” grievances may be in part to blame for dampened Republican enthusiasm, after Georgia voters received weeks of assurances by the President that their electoral system didn’t work. The implication, elected Republicans fretted, was that their voters would conclude their ballots on runoff day wouldn’t matter. Trump tried to turn that message around with his Monday rally in northern Georgia, though his urging to turn out may have gotten lost amid the hours of election grievances.
After disappointing Senate losses in the November election, the double-barrel victory is a huge win for Democrats, who can now look forward to at least two years of legislative productivity rather than the gridlock that would have been delivered at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) hands.
Not that every legislative victory will be easy. There are still some red-state Democrats who will likely be hesitant to cosign some of the more ambitiously progressive legislative proposals. Getting rid of the filibuster, a top priority for Democratic activists back when they thought they’d win a sizable Senate majority in November, may shape up to be an early battle.
But it does all but erase the confirmation roadblock Republicans had been foreshadowing for Biden’s Cabinet secretaries and judges, keeping McConnell from blocking another Democratic Supreme Court appointment should a vacancy arise.