Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have unseated two incumbent Republican senators to secure victory in Tuesday’s nail-biting Georgia elections.
Warnock, who has served as a pastor in Atlanta since 2005, defeated Kelly Loeffler to win his race, while Ossoff took down veteran incumbent David Perdue, who was running for a second term. Both candidates won their respective elections by incredibly narrow margins, with each predicted to receive just over 50% of the vote.
The results mean that the United States Senate will be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris will be able to cast tie-breaking votes in favour of the Democrats. This is evidently good news for President-elect Joe Biden, whose party will now control the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.
The special election, in which Warnock was elected, was taking place because of the resignation of Johnny Isakson, who had served as one of Georgia’s senators for nearly fifteen years. Isakson resigned from the Senate because of health concerns and Loeffler was temporarily appointed to fill the seat until an election could be held. Because Isakson’s term is scheduled to expire in 2022, Warnock will have to face another election battle next year.
Ossoff, on the other hand, defeated Perdue in a regularly scheduled election, and as a result will serve in the Senate for the next six years.
Despite the closeness of the results, it comes as a blow to outgoing president Donald Trump, who will leave office on 20th January as a result of his election loss to Biden in November. Like Loeffler and Perdue, Trump similarly failed to win the support of voters in Georgia, providing overwhelming evidence that the state is moving away from its position as a Republican stronghold towards the political middle ground, and will perhaps lean Democratic in future elections.
The Democratic Party will technically be the majority party in the Senate because of Harris’ ability to cast tie-breaking votes, but this situation is unlikely to come up very often. Moderates in the party, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Montana’s Jon Tester, have frequently shown a willingness to vote with their Republican colleagues on politically divisive legislation. Similarly, Republican moderates (such as Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) have established reputations for bipartisanship, indicating that a 50-50 split may not be as common during the next congressional sitting as is being claimed. The media spotlight will certainly be on these power-wielding senators for the next two years.
Regardless, the Georgia elections represent both a resounding win for Biden’s Democrats and an embarrassing loss for President Trump – one that will haunt him for his final few days in the White House.