COVINGTON, Ga. — Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock was declared winner of the U.S. Senate special election early Wednesday morning, Jan. 6, by the Associated Press. He is set to become the state’s first Black U.S. Senator.
Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler by a razor-thin margin, garnering 2,228,483 votes statewide (50.6%). A Warnock victory brings Democrats one step closer to gaining majority in the Senate. It also marks the first time in 20 years that a Democrat will hold a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia.
The other U.S. Senate race featuring incumbent Republican David Perdue and Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff remained too close to call Wednesday morning, but Ossoff was maintaining a narrow lead of approximately 16,000 votes and 50.2% of the vote.
If Ossoff retains his lead after all votes are counted, Democrats would then control both chambers of Congress and the White House following President-elect Joe Biden’s defeat of President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 General Election.
Biden's office released the following statement Wednesday about the Senate runoffs:
"I congratulate Reverend Warnock on his groundbreaking win last night and I am hopeful that when the count is complete, Jon Ossoff will also be victorious. I congratulate the people of Georgia, who turned out in record numbers once again, just as they did in November, to elect two new Senators, demand action, and call on our elected leaders to end the gridlock and move us forward as a nation. I also congratulate the twin powers of Georgia, Stacey Abrams and Keisha Lance Bottoms, who have laid the difficult groundwork necessary to encourage turnout and protect the vote over these last years. And I want to thank the local and state election officials and poll workers who yet again in a pandemic, with historic turnout, and under immense political pressure, upheld their duty to hold a free and fair election.
"Georgia's voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now. On COVID-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more. They want us to move, but move together. It looks like we will emerge from yesterday's election with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, and of course I'm pleased that we will be able to work with Speaker Pelosi and a Majority Leader Schumer. But I’m also just as determined today as I was yesterday to try to work with people in both parties — at the federal, state, and local levels — to get big things done for our nation. I have long said that the bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed in December was just a down payment. We need urgent action on what comes next, because the COVID-19 crisis hits red states and blue states alike.
"And I intend to work with the next Majority and the Minority Leader to move forward with key Cabinet nominations even while the Georgia results are confirmed. My nominees for critical national security positions at State, Defense, Treasury, and Homeland Security have bipartisan support and have been confirmed by the Senate before. They need to be in their jobs as soon as possible after January 20th.
"After the past four years, after the election, and after today’s election certification proceedings on the Hill, it’s time to turn the page. The American people demand action and they want unity. I am more optimistic than I ever have been that we can deliver both."
In the third runoff that hardly anyone is talking about, Republican incumbent Lauren Bubba McDonald was projected winner in the race for the Public Service Commission District 4 seat. He held a 50.8% lead over Democrat challenger Daniel Blackman as of early Wednesday morning.
NEWTON COUNTY RESULTS
All three Democrat candidates reigned supreme in Newton County on election night.
Warnock finished with 28,284 votes (57.9%) of 48,772 ballots cast in Newton County. He only had 6,593 election day votes compared to Loeffler’s 9,548, but Warnock drew 10,020 absentee by mail votes and 11,671 early votes. Loeffler had just more than 10,000 votes in those respective categories combined.
Ossoff finished with 28,137 votes (57.7%) of 48,751 ballots cast in the county. While he only had 6,532 election day votes compared to Perdue’s 9,604, Ossoff more than doubled Perdue’s absentee and early voting totals with more than 20,000 votes.
Warnock and Ossoff each won 13 of 22 county precincts — one better the President-elect Joe Biden on Nov. 3. Both candidate’s highest percentage came from Crowell (90%) and Mansfield (88% and 89%, respectively).
The trend continued in the Public Service Commission race. Blackman garnered 27,649 votes (57.1%) of 48,392 ballots cast. Despite a low Election Day total of 6,422 votes compared to McDonald’s 9,637, Blackmon earned more than 21,000 votes via absentee by mail and early voting, doubling McDonald’s respective total. However, Blackman only won majority in 12 of the county’s 22 precincts.
NEWTON COUNTY TURNOUT
Turnout was 60% (48,817 out of 80,538 registered voters), which was lower than 69% for the General Election, but marked a new record high for a runoff. In a 2008 U.S. Senate runoff, only 22,546 voted in Newton County.
For Tuesday’s runoffs, approximately 39% were advance voters, 33% were absentee by mail and 28% were Election Day voters.
In the Nov. 3 General Election, 33% voted on Election Day and 29% voted absentee, which indicates about the same number of Democrats returned to vote in the runoffs but not as many Republicans.
Only 5,690 fewer Newton County voters turned out for the Jan. 5 runoffs compared to the Nov. 3 General Election (54,507).
Turnout at individual precincts ranged as high as 75% at Hub (northeast unincorporated Newton) to as low as 50% at City Pond (NE Covington and part of Oxford). Turnout was generally higher percentage-wise in Newton County precincts won by Republicans.
News Editor Tom Spigolon contributed to this report.