The Georgia Senate runoffs

THE CANDIDATES: (clockwise from top left) Kelly Loeffler (R), Raphael Warnock (D), David Perdue (R), and Jon Ossoff (D). Composite / AP

Harrison York | Head Editor

January 10, 2021

On Tuesday, millions of ballots were counted in Georgia as two tight races for the state’s Senate seats drew to a close. The runoffs followed the November general election, in which none of the eligible candidates received more than 50% of the total votes. Based on Georgia’s election guidelines, if such a result occurs, a second election will take place including only the top two candidates from the general election.

One election was between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. Perdue served in the United States Senate representing Georgia since 2015 and was previously CEO of Reebok. Ossoff was a congressional aide who, at 33, will be the Senate’s youngest member. In November, Perdue was ahead of Ossoff by about 88,000 votes, but a third candidate from the Libertarian party received enough support to prevent him from crossing the 50% threshold.

Democrat Ossoff was declared winner on Wednesday after beating Perdue by less than a percent—about 32,000 votes. He won with 50.4% against the 49.6% that went to Perdue.

The second race was a special election, resulting from Senator Johnny Isakson stepping down at the end of 2019. Georgia’s governor, Republican Brian Kemp, appointed Kelly Loeffler, also a Republican, to take up the position for the final year of the term. Her rival in her bid to retain the seat is Reverend Raphael Warnock, a pastor and Democrat who had 1.6 million votes in November compared to Loeffler’s 1.3 million. One million votes were counted for Republican and U.S. Representative Doug Collins, splitting the results. 

This election also resulted in the Democrats’ victory, with Reverend Warnock leading by around 68,000 votes. He received 50.8% of the votes compared to Loeffler’s 49.2%. He will be the eleventh Black person to serve in the United States Senate.

This runoff has been at the focal point of American politics because of the implications the results have for the future of the Biden-Harris administration. Prior to the results of the election, the Senate was split 48-50 between Democrats (with independents Bernie Sanders and Angus Kang who predictably vote alongside them) and Republicans. 

With the Democrats flipping both seats, the Senate will have an even division according to party affiliation. In this case, Kamala Harris, as Vice President, will vote to break any ties. If Republicans had held on to one or both of the available seats, they would have had the majority and would have been able to block the incoming administration from passing many of its intended laws. In addition, a Republican Senate could have blocked Biden’s nominations for cabinet and judicial positions, although the split Senate will still make it difficult going into the next term.

BIDEN with the two Democratic candidates on the eve of the election. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock would go on to win their respective races. Carolyn Kaster / AP

“This election determined that Biden will be able to pass his new laws,” junior Michael Milner said. “The Democrats won both seats, so they will have control over the House of Representatives and the Senate.”

Due to the high stakes, all of the campaigns spent huge sums on advertisement and rhetoric to convince voters to support their side. President Trump held a rally on Monday in a final push to energize Republican voters and those who may be on the fence. President-elect Joe Biden also spoke to voters in Atlanta.

“Unlike any time in my career, one state—one state—can chart the course, not just for the four years but for the next generation,” Biden said with Ossoff and Warnock alongside him.

“The whole world is watching,” Trump said to his supporters.

The final results of the Georgia Senate election represent an important shift of political power in the state. Last year, Georgia voted for Biden in the presidential election, the first time since 1992 that it did not cast its electoral votes for a Republican. 

The Democrats’ victory “means that they won’t be met with as much resistance during the next four years than if they didn’t flip the seats,” junior Evan Lipofsky said. “With new national events constantly happening, many people have moved on from the results in just a few days, but this was a significant change that will have a big impact going forward.”

The victory of the two newest Democratic Senators will have implications defining the ability of Biden’s administration to move forward with his vision for America. With the White House and Congress under Democrat control, the door has been opened for the President-elect to push for reform and deliver on the promises made during his campaign.

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