Jon Ossoff was named the winner of a runoff election in Georgia against Republican David Perdue on Wednesday. He gave the Democrats control of the Senate and gave President-elect Joe Biden a major early victory that will improve his chances of getting his legislative agenda and nominations through Congress.
The Rev. Raphael Warnock had already emerged victorious in the other runoff election in Georgia. In the early hours of Wednesday, he defeated Senator Kelly Loeffler, according to Associated Press predictions.
That gives the Democrats the two victories they needed to get a 50:50 Senate draw. While Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holds the tie, the two Georgia wins put Democrats in control of the Senate.
Both men make history: Warnock will be Georgia’s first black senator, while Ossoff will be Georgia’s first Jewish senator as well as the first Jewish senator elected from a state in the deep south since rebuilding.
The twin victories of the Democrats brought the Republicans a crushing defeat and deprived them of their main power base in the capital after Trump.
It was also a farewell blow to President Trump, who lost the state to Biden in November and has since been at war with his Republican governor and secretary of state for refusing to follow his baseless allegations of election fraud. Trump traveled to the state twice to promote the GOP senators, including a rally on the eve of the elections.
The results also cemented Georgia’s status as a battlefield state, the result of the rapid growth of the state’s black electoral population, a shift to Democratic voters of all races in the booming suburbs of Atlanta, and the massive work of grassroots mobilization groups in registering voters and growing them encourage elections.
With Ossoff ahead of Perdue, who now has nearly 25,000 votes, the AP and television station declared the Democrats the winner late on Wednesday afternoon.
“I humbly thank the people of Georgia for electing me to the US Senate,” Ossoff said in a video released Wednesday morning as his profit margin widened over Perdue, whose tenure in the Senate ended on Sunday.
The final votes were still counted. But the Republicans were pessimistic, and most of the remaining untold ballots came from the Atlanta and Savannah regions – areas where the Democrats have amassed significant majorities.
At a press conference that morning, Gabriel Sterling, one of Georgia’s leading election officials, had predicted that Ossoff would likely win more than 0.5%, the margin required by Georgian law to avoid a recount.
Sterling, a lifelong Republican, knew who he blamed for the low GOP turnout: “President Donald J. Trump.”
“If you say your vote doesn’t count, you start a civil war within a GOP that had to be united to survive an uphill struggle like this in a state that Republicans believe has been the trend for years,” he said.
Indeed, many Republicans in Georgia seemed ready for some reckoning.
Erick Erickson, a Conservative Macon talk show host, attended his radio show Wednesday morning to criticize the Trump and Georgia Republicans who supported the spate of unsubstantiated allegations made by the president about election fraud.
“Donald Trump toured the state and told everyone that the race was stolen, the solution was in,” Erickson said. “The President of the United States literally stood on stage in Dalton, Georgia Monday night and said to Republican voters, ‘The decks are stacked against you, they are cheating and stealing. Go vote anyway! ‘Well, those voters didn’t vote. “
Erickson called on David Shafer, leader of the Georgia Republican Party, to resign.
“He has never climbed a floor game. He was too busy telling Republicans the race was stolen in November and the Republican Secretary of State was an idiot, ”he said.
Meanwhile, the Democrats celebrated their success in not just holding together the coalition that brought Biden to victory in Georgia in November. Both Warnock and Ossoff led their GOP rivals by more votes than Biden’s lead over President Trump – thanks in large part to the high turnout among black voters.
“Once again, the nation is realizing what we’ve known all along: Georgia is a battlefield state thanks to the relentless work of investing in and creating color pickers,” said Nsé Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, in a statement.
“Through Rev. Warnock, voters of the color and progressive white voters have brought us much closer to the bold vision of justice and equality for which we have organized over the years. We are undoing a history of oppression and injustice from voters in black and brown communities. The changes we are seeing now didn’t happen overnight, and we don’t solve our challenges with just one voice. “
Even before Ossoff declared victory, Republicans began to blame Trump for the party’s poor performance. His futile, unsubstantiated efforts to overcome his own loss in November bitterly divided the party and undercut its candidates in Georgia, who sought to be a continuation of the GOP Senate majority as a firewall against democratic power.
“The president effectively got rid of the strongest Republican argument by refusing to acknowledge he lost in November,” said Josh Holmes, a GOP strategist close to Kentucky Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
Holmes, who now called the GOP sentiment “seething,” said Republican acceptance of Trump-era conspiracy theories had particularly hurt the party among suburban voters.
In his autopsy of the Republicans’ loss, Newt Gingrich, former Georgia House Speaker, attributed “remarkable” floor play to Stacey Abrams and urged Republicans to “study it and what it has achieved and how to achieve or exceed it. ” . He also accused Republicans of distracting Republicans from the civil war between Trump and Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the failure of the campaigns to use Trump’s success with Latino voters, and the bombardment of negative ads.
“These two races were winable,” said Gingrich. “But too many of the participants, supporters and key players had plans that would jeopardize the GOP victory. The result is a nightmare that we will recover from for years. “
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Bernard L. Fraga, a political scientist at Emory University, tweeted that more black voters were likely to cast ballots in the runoff than in the presidential election, a remarkable reversal of the typical decline in black turnout in such competitions. The turnout is likely to be just under 90% in November.
“VICTORY in Georgia must lead to transformative change across America!” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Chair of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, said on Twitter. “Recurring survival checks, union jobs that pay a living wage, guaranteed health care, racial justice, voting rights, immigration reform, climate protection, reprojustice, education and much more.”
The scale of government aid to Americans hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic was among the curveballs Trump threw at Georgia Republican candidates. The president pitched at hour 11 to increase the $ 600 individual checks that Congress would approve under the COVID-19 relief laws to $ 2,000.
The GOP-controlled Senate rejected this idea, although Perdue and Loeffler supported the increase. Biden, who spoke in Georgia on Monday, seized the problem by promising to provide $ 2,000 in case the Democrats gain control of the Senate.
Rick Tyler, a Trump critic who was a political advisor to Gingrich, said: “You would have to credit President Trump with completing his trifecta of losing the House, the White House and now the Senate. Will the Republican Party ever wake up? “