Democrats win history-making Georgia Senate races

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The Catalyst / Photos courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Democrats Jon Ossoff (left) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (right) won the Georgia Senate runoff elections.

On January 5, Georgia elected Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in the state’s Senate runoff elections, securing a Democratic hold on both chambers of Congress. Ossoff ran against David Perdue, and Warnock against Kelly Loeffler.

Warnock will make history as the first Black senator of Georgia, and Ossoff as the state’s first Jewish senator. They are the first Democrats to win Senate seats for Georgia since 2000.

“I think they will be able to bring new perspectives to their state and the Senate because with the diversity they bring they can represent different kinds of people,” said NDB freshman Megan Worry.

At age 51, Warnock has been a senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA for over a decade. He hopes to continue preaching while fulfilling his role in the Senate (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Before this election, Warnock had never run for public office, although he was a political activist.

Ossoff, age 33, is an Atlanta native and has a background in investigative journalism, previously serving as the CEO of media company Insight TWI. He also worked as a national security aid for Congressman Hank Johnson. In 2017, he ran for Congress for the first time, losing by a narrow margin of 3%. He will be the youngest member of the U.S. Senate this year, and the youngest Democrat elected to the Senate since Joe Biden in 1973 (CNN).

These seats were the last two to be filled in this Congressional election season. Georgia requires a candidate to win by more than 50% of voters, not by the highest percentage of voters. This means that when there are over two parties and none receive 50% or more of the votes, the top two are placed in a runoff election, where one is guaranteed to win by a majority.

This year also saw two races in Georgia instead of the usual one since former Senator Johnny Isakson retired in December 2019. The seat was temporarily filled by Kelly Loeffler.

Since both Ossoff and Warnock won their elections, the Senate is now split with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. The vice president is the president of the Senate, so newly-sworn in Vice President Kamala Harris will be able to cast the deciding vote in any split decisions, meaning that Democrats have the upper hand in the Senate.

“I think that the significance of a democratic majority in the Senate right now is that there is more power leaning towards Biden’s beliefs and goals,” said NDB junior Renee D’Arcangelis. “This will allow Biden to make decisions more easily.”

President Joe Biden came into office with his party’s majority in both chambers of Congress, giving him a big advantage in policy-making. In his first 100 days in office, Biden hopes to send out new COVID-19 relief packages, distribute 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, enforce a mask mandate, begin to safely reopen public schools nationwide, raise the minimum wage, reverse several immigration policies put in place under the Trump presidency, and tackle criminal justice reform, and address climate change (USA Today). The narrow majority in the Senate will be vital to keeping up with the fast-paced goals of the Biden administration.

“I think that the slight majority Democrats have in Congress is really important and hopefully will bring a lot of change and growth as our nation tries to heal and move forward with President Biden,” said NDB junior Ali Lewis.

As a longstanding conservative state, the election of two Democratic senators was surprising to many. This year’s election saw some of the highest voter turnout in the state’s history, particularly from the Latino and Black communities, who far surpassed their numbers from the 2018 Senate runoffs (NBC).

The results of the Senate runoffs confirm that the state is finally turning blue, a change which could have drastic effects on the country’s political atmosphere for many elections to come.

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