Election season 2020 was one for the history books, and the wait for the final results stretched all the way into 2021. With control of Congress hinging on the results of Georgia’s special election on Jan. 5, all eyes around the country were on the Peach State. The results of Georgia’s Senate race were finally confirmed on Jan. 6, and it was yet another political shakeup.
In November 2020, no candidate met the threshold to be declared the winner of either of Georgia’s two Senate seats, leaving the field open for the Jan. 5, 2021 runoffs. The election pitted Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff, and the other Republican incumbent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, against Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. But the election also set the stage for a possible major shift in federal political power — after Election Day 2020, Republicans held 50 seats in the Senate, and Democrats 48. If Democrats won both Georgia seats, they would retake control of the Senate for the first time since 2014. Democratic control of the Senate would be a political windfall for President-elect Joe Biden, who is entering office with a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
And it looks like he’s getting it. At around 2 a.m. ET on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 6, multiple news sources called one of the seats for Warnock, making him the first Black man to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. In a brief speech shortly after his race was called, Warnock recognized the impact of his election and referenced his own mother. "The 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a [U.S.] senator," he said.
It took a little while longer for his new Democratic colleague. But as of 4:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 6, the race was officially called in favor of Ossoff, giving Democrats control of the Senate for the first time since 2014. With Democrats still in control of the House with a narrow, 11-vote majority, it gives the incoming Biden administration the political trifecta: control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
Across the internet, many Democratic supporters were already looking ahead to the demotion of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has served as Senate Majority Leader since 2015 and has been enormously influential in setting a conservative congressional agenda for the past six years. With Democrats holding the Senate majority, McConnell would be the Senate minority leader.
Georgia provided several of the 2020 election cycle’s surprises. In November 2020, the state swung blue for the first time since 1992, awarding its 16 electoral votes to Democrat Joe Biden. The switch from red to blue followed an intense get-out-the-vote campaign by prominent Democrats, including former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Following the Georgia Senate results, she and other Black grassroots activists, like LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright of Black Voters Matter, were credited with flipping Georgia blue for the first time in nearly two decades.
Warnock and Ossoff will be sworn in once the election results are certified. Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger has until Jan. 22 to officially certify the results, and the seats will remain empty until then.
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