Democrats Gain Control of Senate


Gerri Hernandez & John Ramspott

Ossoff and Warnock won the Georgia runoff elections, giving the Democrats control of the Senate.

Democrat Jon Ossoff emerged victorious in Georgia’s Senate runoffs on the morning of Wednesday, January 6, settling the final race of the 2020 election cycle.

In a speech posted to his Twitter account, Mr. Ossoff promised to make public health his first priority. He said, “Let’s unite now to beat this virus and rush economic relief to the people of our state and to the American people.”

The 33-year-old video producer and former investigative journalist made his debut on the political stage in a 2017 special election when he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Representatives. This election cycle, fueled by increased turnout among left-leaning voters during the early voting period and overwhelming support in Georgia’s metropolises, Mr. Ossoff defeated Republican incumbent David Perdue by 1.2 percentage points—a hair-thin margin reminiscent of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state just two months prior.

Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock also beat Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat in 2019 by Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, by similarly slim margins. Mr. Ossoff’s subsequent victory brought the Democratic party control of the Senate, making this the first time it controlled both houses since 1995. 

The Georgia special election reflected a stark transformation of the state’s political landscape; the one-time Republican stronghold has seen Democratic candidates fare well in recent years due to increased turnout among Black voters and a growing suburban base. Mr. Warnock marveled at the state’s willingness to choose increasingly diverse candidates, which he calls a “reversal of old Republican strategy.” Georgia is sending Warnock, the African-American pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. also served, as well as Jon Ossoff, a young Jewish man and the son of an immigrant, to the U.S. Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell (R-KY) pleaded privately with Mr. Trump weeks before the runoff to cease promoting conspiracy theories and attempting to overturn the election result, to no avail. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) was among the high-profile Republicans to blame Mr. Trump for the loss. Mr. Romney said, “It turns out that telling voters that the election was rigged is not a great way to turn out your voters.” 

Power in both chambers of Congress will give Democrats greater ability to pass laws supporting Mr. Biden’s policies. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Majority Leader, expressed optimism about his party’s newfound majority. Mr. Schumer said, “For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate, and that will be very good for the American people.”

However, the recent attack on the Capital and Mr. Trump’s continued attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the election are indicators that when Democrats take control of Congress in days, they will face the challenge of healing a divided nation.