Democrats near Senate control after Warnock wins Georgia race

Democrat Raphael Warnock has defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in one of Georgia’s two US Senate runoff elections, according to a projection by The Associated Press news agency, putting Democrats one seat away from majority control of the Senate.

In the extremely tight race, Warnock leads Loeffler 50.5 to 49.5 percent, with 98 percent of votes counted.

The second runoff, between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican David Perdue, is still too close to call. If Democrats prevail in both races, the party will take control of the Senate, paving the way for Joe Biden to enact his agenda after he is sworn in as president on January 20.

Warnock, 51, is the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the same church pastored by civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. His victory makes him the first Black senator in Georgia’s history.

“I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia,” Warnock said in live remarks broadcast on social media early on Wednesday morning. “To everyone out there struggling today, whether you voted for me or not, know this: I hear you. I see you. And every day I’m in the United States Senate, I will fight for you. I will fight for your family.”

Warnock will be up for election again in 2022, as this victory is to fill the remaining two years of the Senate term originally won in 2016 by Republican Johnny Isakson, who stepped down last year and was temporarily replaced by Loeffler.

The election results show how the politics in Georgia, a state long dominated by Republicans, is changing. In November, Biden defeated President Donald Trump by 11,779 votes, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992. Warnock’s success – and the tight race between Ossoff and Perdue – further show that Georgia will continue to be a competitive battleground.

“With new votes joining the tally, we are on a strong path,” tweeted Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia state minority leader who helped support the Democratic candidates by registering hundreds of thousands of new voters. “But even while we wait for more, let’s celebrate the extraordinary organizers, volunteers, canvassers & tireless groups that haven’t stopped going since Nov. Across our state, we roared.”

Changing demographics

The election results show how the politics in Georgia, a state long dominated by Republicans, is changing. In November, Biden defeated President Donald Trump by 11,779 votes, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992. Warnock’s success – and the tight race between Ossoff and Perdue – further show that Georgia will continue to be a competitive battleground.

“With new votes joining the tally, we are on a strong path,” tweeted Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia state minority leader who helped support the Democratic candidates by registering hundreds of thousands of new voters. “But even while we wait for more, let’s celebrate the extraordinary organizers, volunteers, canvassers & tireless groups that haven’t stopped going since Nov. Across our state, we roared.”

The conclusion of these historic double-barrelled elections comes after a gruelling two-month campaign sprint in which the candidates and outside groups spent more than $500m combined since Election Day – November 3. Given the high stakes of the outcome, the races captivated the American political world over the December holidays, and drew nationwide attention.

The growth of urban and suburban areas around cities like Atlanta combined with an increasingly diversified population has increased Democratic status in the state, potentially reshaping the state’s structures of political power.

“The Atlanta area is rapidly changing, and that is outweighing a lot of rural Georgia,” said Jessica Taylor, a political analyst for the Cook Political Report. “It’s a purple state, but it’s also perhaps a centre-right state. Very slightly still, but it’s one that’s changing.”

Warnock’s most robust support came from areas in and around cities, such as Atlanta, Macon and Savannah, while Perdue and Loeffler relied on support from the state’s peripheries that voted in high numbers for Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Record-breaking turnout

Even before Tuesday’s election, the runoffs broke records. A staggering three million people voted early or by mail, including more than 120,000 new voters who did not participate in the general election last November. An additional one million people voted on Tuesday.

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