U.S. Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia are set to take office after results of their Jan. 5 runoff wins were certified today, Jan. 19.
The Democratic soon-to-be senators will give Democrats control of both chambers of Congress and ease the way for President-elect Joe Biden to push his incoming administration’s legislative priorities for at least the next two years.
Ossoff and Warnock unseated Georgia’s incumbent Republican senators earlier this month, marking the first time since 2002 that Democrats will occupy the state’s two Senate seats.
They could take office as soon as Wednesday, the same day as Biden’s inauguration. Gov. Brian Kemp first needs to approve the election results Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified today.
Ossoff, an Atlanta native who runs an investigative journalism company, defeated former U.S. Sen. David Perdue by 54,944 votes in the Jan. 5 runoffs, limiting him to a single term.
Warnock, a Savannah native and senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, ousted U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler by 93,272 votes, ending her tenure barely a year after she was appointed to fill retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat.
The Democrats’ wins came after Biden beat President Donald Trump in Georgia by 11,779 votes in the Nov. 3 general election, becoming the first Democratic candidate to carry the Peach State since 1992.
The runoff outcomes were historic beyond party lines. Warnock is poised to become Georgia’s first Black senator and Ossoff will become the state’s first Jewish representative in the Senate.
With voter turnout at nearly 4.5 million, the runoffs solidified Georgia’s position as a battleground state with closely fought elections for at least the next decade and particularly in 2022, when Kemp will likely face Democrat Stacey Abrams in a rematch of the heated and close 2018 gubernatorial election.
The two Senate races drew the eyes of America and the world to Georgia over the two months after Warnock and Ossoff forced runoffs against their opponents, summoning nearly $1 billion in campaign and outreach spending along with visits from dozens of celebrities and national politicians.
Both Democrats overcame attempts by Perdue and Loeffler to paint them as socialists too extreme for conservative Georgians through fierce attack ads that sought to tie Ossoff to communist China and portray Warnock as anti-police.
That campaign strategy failed, according to several local analysts who credited the two Democrats for focusing on more hopeful messages that elevated key issues like health care, criminal justice, workers’ rights and the ongoing COVID-19 response.
Perdue, a former corporate executive, and Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman, were also hamstrung by their loyalty to Trump as the outgoing president trashed Georgia’s election system following his election loss. Both Republicans conceded defeat earlier this month.
With Congress poised for Democratic majorities in both chambers, the Biden administration now faces an easier road to appointing Cabinet members and passing legislation until at least the 2022 mid-term elections. Biden has nonetheless pledged to take a moderate approach and work with leaders on both sides of the aisle.