Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, won one of two contested Georgia Senate runoff races held on Tuesday, moving Democrats a step closer to taking control of the U.S. Senate. Warnock’s victory was called by the Associated Press Wednesday. He led Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler by nearly 47,000 votes, with 99% of precincts reporting.
The two runoffs are being held after no Georgia Senate candidate received 50% of the vote in November. As of the time of reporting, the race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff was still too close to call. Ossoff, however, led by 12,500 votes out of about 4.4 million cast.
If confirmed, Warnock, 51, the pastor who for 15 years led the Ebenezer Baptist Church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, would be the first Black Senator from Georgia. Warnock would also be the first Georgia Democrat elected to the Senate in 20 years. His victory was largely due to the role played by Black organizers including former state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams and co-founder of Black Voters Matter LaTosha Brown, who worked on increasing Black voter engagement.
Loeffler, as of midnight, had refused to concede defeat to Warnock. “This is a game of inches. We’re going to win this election,” she told her supporters. Now, for Democrats to take the Senate, they must win Georgia’s other Senate runoff held on Tuesday. In other words, Ossoff will need to win his race for President-elect Joe Biden to assume his duties with his party in control of the two chambers of Congress.
If Ossoff wins, the upper chamber will be split 50-50. However, Kamala Harris, as vice president, would be able to cast a tie-breaking vote. That will strengthen Biden’s standing as he gets ready to take office on January 20.
The Democratic victory comes as President Donald Trump insists that his defeat to Biden in the November election was due to widespread voter fraud, an allegation he is yet to provide any evidence for. Trump on Saturday reportedly called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushing him to overturn the November election results that delivered the state to President-elect Biden. Biden won the state by 11,779 votes out of about 5 million cast.
In the hour-long call, Trump reportedly told Raffensperger that he wanted him to find nearly 12,000 votes so he could reverse Biden’s victory. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state,” he reportedly told Raffensperger on the call, adding “It’s not a problem that is going away.”
Reports said Republicans feared that the call could ruin their efforts to win the two Senate races in Georgia. On Monday, Biden, Trump, and Vice-president Mike Pence held rallies in the state for their chosen candidates ahead of Tuesday’s vote. Biden told Georgians that the results of the election could “chart the course, not just for the four years, but for the next generation”.