Georgia gives Democrats a Senate majority


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Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue faced off against Democratic challengers Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof (respectively) in the state of Georgia. Photo by Yahoo News

Paul Proteau, Editor

Following the last two Senate races of the 2020 election cycle on January 5, Democrats have control of the Senate (by a very narrow majority) for the first time since 2015. Democratic candidates Jon Ossof and Reverend Raphael Warnock have both won their senate seats in the state of Georgia.

Ossof, who has previous involvement in politics as a candidate for the house in 2017 and as an aide to Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson, squared off against incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue. Ossof and Perdue initially fought for the seat in the November general election, but neither candidate won. In order to have won the seat in November, one candidate would’ve had to receive a majority in the votes. Perdue won a plurality of the vote (49.73% to 47.95%), however, he fell to Ossof by a tight margin of about 1%.

Warnock is the Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (where Martin Luther King Jr. served as a pastor) and a political activist. Warnock and incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler also initially ran for the seat back in November.

Loeffler was appointed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) in December of 2019 to replace fellow Republican Johnny Isakson who had resigned his senate seat. Because of this, Loeffler was required to undergo a special election to retain her seat for another two years.

In the November election, Loeffler and Warnock had to fight their way through over a dozen candidates in a blanket primary. In a blanket primary, there is an open ballot for those who qualify, meaning they both had to fight against their own party and candidates of other various affiliations. Because they were the top two candidates with neither achieving a majority in the vote share (32.9% to 25.91%, Warnock to Loeffler respectively), they had to go through a runoff election similar to Ossof and Perdue.

Warnock beat Loeffler by about 1.8%. Both races have some outstanding votes, mainly expected to favor the Democrats. Polls typically were tight, but they generally gave Democrats a tilting edge over their Republican incumbents.

Ossoff with be the first Jewish senator to represent Georgia and will also make history as the first millennial to serve in the Senate. Warnock will be the first black Democrat to represent a southern state in the Senate. Warnock will be up for re-election in 2022 as a Class III senator.

The last Democratic senator from Georgia was Zell Miller, who was elected in 2000 and served only one term. Though having been one of America’s reddest states in the 21st century, demographic shifts have made Georgia a lot more competitive in the last four years. Notably, in 2018, Democratic nominee Stacy Abrams almost made history by nearly winning the governorship, which would have made her the first black female governor in the United States.

Abrams has since gone on to form Fair Fight 2020, an organization that fights voter suppression and lead the charge in Georgia to increase turnout in predominantly black populated parts of the state such as Atlanta and surrounding suburbs. This initiative along with weak Republican turnout and shifts in suburbs in general lead to the flip in the senate. Some of these factors also helped President-elect Joe Biden carry the state in November, being the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Georgia left the country in suspense for two months on who would lead the Senate. Prior to these runoff races, Democrats had flipped two seats in the senate (Arizona and Colorado) while Republicans had flipped one seat (Alabama). After a net gain of two seats following the 2018 midterms, Republicans had lost a net of three seats. The current makeup of the Senate is 50/50 split between Republicans and Democrats (two independent affiliated senators caucus with the Democrats). However, Democrats will likely hold the majority because Vice President Kamala Harris will hold the soul tie breaking vote upon her inauguration.

With the tiniest majority in the Senate, Democrats will have the capability to approve Biden’s cabinet members, confirm Justices to the Supreme Court, and aid in making some of Biden’s proposals into law. Because of the narrow Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, Democrats may have to resort to compromising with Republicans on certain laws and might dampen certain liberal proposals.

New York Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer is the new presumptive majority leader in the Senate. Schumer will presumably make history as he will be the first Jewish Senate Majority Leader.