Warnock makes history as the first Black senator from Georgia, while Ossoff becomes the youngest senator in 40 years.
Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have both defeated their Republican opponents, bringing the 2020 election cycle to a close and giving Democrats control of the US Senate.
The results came on a day of unprecedented turmoil and violence in Washington, as Trump-supporting domestic terrorists—encouraged to march to the US Capitol earlier in the day by President Trump—stormed the Capitol building, sending lawmakers and government workers fleeing for safety.
Both races were forced into a run-off in November, when no candidate received over 50% of the vote. The races became nationally important when Democrats failed to make significant Senate gains elsewhere in the country, leaving Georgia’s two Senate races to determine control of the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
Victories by both Democratic candidates would give the party control of the House of Representatives, Senate, and Presidency for the first time in a decade.
Over 4 million Georgians cast votes in the runoffs, most of them early. In November, the state became one of the nation’s newest potential battlegrounds when it elected Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States. Georgia had not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992. That success fueled hopes that the state’s Senate races might also swing in favor of the Democrats.
Warnock Will Become the First Ever Black Senator from Georgia
Rev. Raphael Warnock beat Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s runoff race, making him the first Black Georgian to represent the state in the US Senate. He is also the first Black Democratic Senator elected to the Senate from any state in the South.
“Georgia I am honored by the faith you have shown in me,” Warnock said during a live-streamed address shortly after midnight, “and I promise you this tonight. I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for.” A sign reading “Thank you, Georgia” was behind him.
Warnock is a reverend who grew up in public housing in Savannah, Georgia, and this was his first time running for public office. The 51-year-old has been a senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta—the same church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached—since 2005.
His campaign focused on 10 major issues, including reproductive rights, voting rights, and equality for LBGTQ+ and marginalized people. Other platforms he promotes are access to affordable, quality health care and education for all, criminal justice reform, and the “need to rebuild an economy that works for everyone.”
Jon Ossoff Becomes the Youngest US Senator in 40 Years
Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff unseated incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue in a close race that was called late Wednesday afternoon by the Associated Press.
At 33 years old, Ossoff will be the youngest current US senator, and the youngest person to hold such a position in 40 years. The Northlake, Georgia, native has experience in national politics after working as a national security staffer for Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and interning for civil rights icon former Rep. John Lewis. He is also the first Jewish Senator to represent Georgia since the late 19th Century.
This is the first time Ossoff has won an election. He skyrocketed to the Senate after running a surprisingly close race for a House seat outside of Atlanta in a 2017 special election. It was an early opportunity for voters to register their opposition to Trump, and the New York Times reports that it “enabled him to shatter fund-raising records and build the political network that has put him within reach of the Senate.”
Ossoff staked his campaign of getting Georgians more financial assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, fighting pervasive racial inequality, expanding access to Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, and transitioning to a clean energy economy.
Georgia Senate Wins Put Biden’s Agenda One Step Closer to Reality
Democrats holding the majority in the Senate makes all of the difference for President-elect Joe Biden and his ambitious agenda.
It still won’t be easy, given the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for passing legislation outright, but having the majority means Biden would at least have the option to enact some of his policies using the budget reconciliation process, which allows Congress to pass certain tax, spending, and debt limit legislation with only a simple majority in the Senate.
That could mean everything from expanding access to health care through changes to the Affordable Care Act, fighting climate change and building clean energy infrastructure, and more meaningful financial assistance for people who have lost employment during the coronavirus pandemic.