As final votes were counted this morning, Australian time, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock – Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party’s evolving coalition – have defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.
Warnock, who served as pastor for the same Atlanta church where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. preached, becomes the first African American from Georgia elected to the Senate. And Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the Senate’s youngest member.
This week’s elections marked the formal finale to the turbulent 2020 election season, but the result coincided with high drama in Washington DC as Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol amid a last-ditch effort to overturn his election loss.
The unusually high stakes in the runoff election transformed Georgia, once a solidly Republican state, into one of the nation’s premier battlegrounds for the final days of Trump’s presidency – and likely beyond.
In an emotional address, Warnock vowed to work for all Georgians whether they voted for him or not, citing his personal experience with the American dream. His mother, he said, used to pick “somebody else’s cotton” as a teenager.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” he said.
“Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, he described his win as a “reversal of the old Southern strategy that sought to divide people”.
Loeffler, who remains a Georgia senator until the results of the election are finalised, had returned to Washington intending to join a small group of senators challenging Congress’ vote to certify Biden’s victory.
However, today she declared the lawlessness in the Capitol had changed her mind and she would no longer challenge the result.
GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia says the violence in Capitol has made her reconsider plan to challenge the electoral votes: "I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors…I pray that America never suffers such a dark day again" pic.twitter.com/LILRucSjrQ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 7, 2021
Georgia’s other runoff election pitted Perdue, a 71-year-old former business executive who held his Senate seat until his term expired on Sunday, against Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist.
“This campaign has been about health and jobs and justice for the people of this state – for all the people of this state,” Ossoff said in a speech broadcast on social media Wednesday morning.
“Whether you were for me, or against me, I’ll be for you in the US Senate. I will serve all the people of the state.”
Trump’s false claims of voter fraud cast a dark shadow over the runoff elections, which were held only because no candidate hit the 50 per cent threshold in the general election.
He attacked the state’s election chief on the eve of the election and raised the prospect that some votes might not be counted even as votes were being cast Tuesday afternoon, local time.
Republican state officials on the ground reported no significant problems.
Both contests tested whether the political coalition that fuelled Biden’s November victory was an anti-Trump anomaly or part of a new electoral landscape. To win in Tuesday’s elections – and in the future – Democrats needed strong African American support.
Drawing on his popularity with black voters, among other groups, Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of five million cast in November.
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