ATLANTA — Jon Ossoff’s victory in the Georgia Senate runoff election Jan. 5, together with Raphael Warnock’s win the same day, ensured Democrats will control the Senate for the next two years, a seismic shift of power in Washington. Warnock’s opponent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, conceded the race on Thursday, and after several days of silence the other Republican running, Sen. David Perdue, admitted his loss on Friday afternoon, Reuters correspondent David Shepardson reported.
“Although we won the general election, we came up just short of Georgia’s 50 percent rule, and now I want to congratulate the Democratic Party and my opponent for this runoff win,” Perdue said. He had received the most votes in a three-person race in the general election on Nov. 3, but Georgia law requires a majority, which led to Tuesday’s runoff.
“It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate,” Ossoff said in a video message posted to his Twitter account Wednesday morning, just hours before the Associated Press officially declared him the winner. “Thank you for the confidence and trust that you have placed in me.”
With the win, Ossoff becomes the first Jewish senator from Georgia and, at age 33, will be the youngest sitting U.S. senator (and the youngest person elected to the Senate since Joe Biden, who was 29 when he was elected, in 1972).
“I want to thank the people of Georgia for participating in this election, everybody who cast your ballot, everybody who put your faith and confidence in our democracy’s capacity to deliver the representation that we deserve. Whether you were for me or against me, I’ll be for you in the U.S. Senate,” Ossoff said. “I will serve all the people of the state.”
As of Friday there were about 17,000 ballots untallied ballots from Georgians and military members overseas, according to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, but Ossoff has already secured enough votes to solidify his win. With 98 percent of the vote tabulated as of Friday afternoon, Ossoff leads Perdue by nearly 50,000 votes, a margin larger than the threshold required to trigger a recount under Georgia law.
But there are several procedural steps to go through before Warnock and Ossoff can actually be seated, which could stretch out until as late as Jan. 22.
With Ossoff and Warnock headed to the Senate, and the House remaining in Democratic control, Biden will be in a position to push progressive legislation at the outset of his administration, and to confirm his Cabinet and judicial nominees. The House will be up for grabs again in two years, and Warnock, who is filling an unexpired term, will have to run for a full term in 2022.
In an interview with Yahoo News last week, Ossoff said he knows his mentor, the late Rep. John Lewis, is smiling down on him.
“I know that John Lewis is looking down and smiling on the fact that a young Jewish son of an immigrant he mentored is running alongside a Black Baptist pastor who holds Dr. King’s pulpit at Ebenezer church,” Ossoff said. “This is the New South. This is the manifestation of decades of work.”
On Dec. 31, just days before the runoff election, Perdue announced he would self-quarantine after being exposed to a person who had tested positive for COVID-19. In the days after he was silent except for one tweet, about “getting results” in Georgia. He did not respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment.
Ossoff has called for the country to “heal.”
“On Wednesday, we all watched the events unfolding in our nation’s capital in horror,” Ossoff tweeted late Thursday. “Even though the man who incited that insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol will soon be out of office, we have hard work to do to repair our struggling democracy, heal our wounds, & establish politics based on love for each other rather than fear, hate, and corruption.”
Cover thumbnail photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
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