Ossoff, Warnock set to take Senate seats with little drama after tumultuous week

Loeffler, Perdue conceded to the Democrats last week

Democratic Georgia Senate candidates for Jon Ossoff, left, and Rev. Raphael Warnock, center, attend a drive-in rally Oct. 29 in Columbus, Ga. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., appears at right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Democratic Georgia Senate candidates for Jon Ossoff, left, and Rev. Raphael Warnock, center, attend a drive-in rally Oct. 29 in Columbus, Ga. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., appears at right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 11, 2021 at 5:35pm

The turmoil in the nation’s capital has erased concerns of an unruly transition to majority control in the Senate, with Georgia Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff set to be sworn in as early as next week after their Republican opponents, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, conceded.

Georgia election officials told CQ Roll Call Monday that the ballot counting is going smoothly and the state is on track to certify the Democrats’ wins as early as Jan. 20, two days before the official deadline and a day after the Senate returns from recess.

That’s earlier than political scientists and strategists on both sides of the aisle expected a week ago, when several said Loeffler and Perdue would almost certainly follow President Donald Trump’s lead and contest the results if they lost their Jan. 5 runoffs.

“I think the riots in the Capitol probably sped up the concessions so they became more conventional,” said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.

The victories by Warnock and Ossoff mean the Senate will be split 50-50, but Democrats will have majority control because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be able to break ties after her inauguration on Jan. 20. The Senate is not scheduled to be back in session and voting until Jan. 19.

Loeffler and Perdue spent the last two months campaigning on their support for Trump’s baseless assertions that the Nov. 3 election in Georgia, which Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden by less than 12,000 votes, was rife with fraud and corruption.

“They defrauded us out of a win in Georgia, and we’re not going to forget it,” Trump said about that vote when he appeared before a crowd of supporters rallying near the White House on Wednesday. Hours later, his supporters broke down barricades and doors into the Capitol, looking for members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence because they were preparing to vote to accept the results of the Electoral College.

In November, both senators had called for the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensburger, a fellow Republican, after Trump vilified him. Both said before the riot in the Capitol that they supported efforts to object to the certification of Biden’s electoral votes from Georgia. For Perdue, the support was theoretical, since his term expired three days before Wednesday’s vote.

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But senators and House members having to flee to undisclosed parts of the Capitol complex as police protected them from a rioting mob presented a drastic change of circumstance to the Republicans. The Associated Press and other networks had already declared Loeffler the loser of her race against Warnock when she appeared on the Senate floor on Wednesday night and said she could not “in good conscience” follow through on her plans to object to Biden’s certification. She formally conceded the race the next day, trailing Warnock by more than 89,000 votes.

Perdue’s campaign had said after the polls closed that he would “exhaust every legal resource to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted,” which seemed to indicate he would contest the result in court.

Perdue waited until the deadline passed for overseas and military ballots to be received in the state before he ended his campaign Friday afternoon, trailing Ossoff by more than 51,000 votes. His concession statement, which did not mention Ossoff, falsely claimed that he “won the general election” in November. He got more votes than Ossoff, but did not clear the state’s 50% threshold to avoid a runoff.

While Georgia is considering changing the way future elections are run, the rules for the runoffs on Jan. 5 were the same as they were on Nov. 3.