Jon Ossoff defeats David Perdue in Georgia, tipping Senate control

Democrats take both seats in Peach State runoff sweep

Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate for Georgia senate, speaks during a drive-in rally with Muscogee County Democrats at the Civic Center in Columbus, Ga., in October.   (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate for Georgia senate, speaks during a drive-in rally with Muscogee County Democrats at the Civic Center in Columbus, Ga., in October. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 6, 2021 at 4:38pm

Democrats will have majority control of the Senate following documentary film production company owner Jon Ossoff’s win over incumbent Republican David Perdue in Georgia.

Ossoff’s win completes a sweep for Democrats by the narrowest of margins in the two runoff elections the state held on Tuesday. Ossoff had 50.3 percent of the vote to Perdue’s 49.7 when The Associated Press called the race at 4:16 p.m.

The other race was called early Wednesday morning, with the Rev. Raphael Warnock, 51, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, beating appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent. That race was for the unexpired term of Republican Johnny Isakson, who resigned at the end of 2019.

Ossoff, 33, will be the first Jewish senator to represent the deep South since reconstruction and the youngest Democrat in the chamber since President-elect Joe Biden began his first term, at age 30, in 1973. 

Warnock, whose pulpit was once occupied by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is the first Black senator elected in Georgia. 

Ossoff’s campaign had said he was on a path to win early Wednesday morning, and he later issued a victory statement despite the race not being called by any television network or the AP. Votes in Georgia are still being counted, and ballots from military or overseas voters can still come in until Friday.

“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. “And they will be my guiding principles, as I serve this state in the U.S. Senate.”

Ossoff began his career as an intern for Georgia Rep. John Lewis, whom he credits as a mentor. The late Democratic congressman was among Ossoff’s earliest political backers when Ossoff ran in a special election for an open Atlanta-area House seat in 2017. 

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Ossoff lost that race, but it helped him tap into a network of thousands of volunteers who remained active throughout his Senate bid. It also gave him inroads with political organizers, many of them working to galvanize voters of color who have transformed the state’s Democratic Party in recent years. 

Neither Perdue nor Loeffler has conceded. President Donald Trump, who has railed against his loss to Biden in Georgia in November with false allegations of election fraud, cast doubt on the results in Tuesday’s elections as well at a rally with supporters on the National Mall on Wednesday.

“Kelly Loeffler, I’ll tell you, she has been — she has been so great. She works so hard, so let’s give her and David a little special hand, because it was rigged against them,” Trump said. “They fought a good race. They never had a shot. That equipment should never have been allowed to be used. And, I was telling these people, ‘Don’t let them use this stuff.’”

While rejecting votes showing Loeffler and Perdue lost, Trump said a Democratic Senate made it more important that Congress and Vice President Mike Pence overturn Biden’s Electoral College victory so that Trump could continue to veto bills coming out of Congress.

Biden said he called Warnock and Ossoff on Wednesday to congratulate them. 

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Biden said in a statement.