Remaining votes are in typically Democratic strongholds, putting Joe Biden’s party within striking distance of controlling House, Senate and White House
In a repeat of November’s presidential election there, both Georgia Senate runoff elections that will decide which political party controls the Senate were too close to call as Tuesday became Wednesday – but late surges appeared put both Democratic candidates in the driver’s seat.
Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both had leads around three percentage points most of the night after polls closed in the 7 o’clock hour. But when heavily Democratic Dekalb County released a large haul of results over four hours later, both races substantially narrowed.
Mr Perdue had a slight lead (less than 1 per cent) over Democratic challenger Jon Ossof, while Ms Loeffler was trailing Raphael Warnock by less than a percentage point. With most outstanding ballots in heavily blue areas, some senior Republicans were essentially waving a white flag – and taking shots at Donald Trump.
“Suburbs, my friends, the suburbs. I feel like a one trick pony but here we are again. We went from talking about jobs and the economy to Qanon election conspiracies in 4 short years and – as it turns out- they were listening!” tweeted Josh Holmes, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who now heads a Republican political consulting firm.
Collectively, the two runoff elections appeared around midnight to rank among the non-presidential elections with the highest vote turnout numbers in US history. That came after President-elect Joe Biden and the outgoing president, Mr Trump, both stumped for their parties’ candidates on Monday.
As 5 January faded into the sixth day of the month, the prospects that Mr Warnock would replace Ms Loeffler in the Senate grew as the Perdue-Ossoff race appeared a dead heat.
Mr Warnock would be Georgia’s first black senator in state history and one of just three black senators in the 117th Congress. (Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey are the other two.)
A longtime minister, Mr Warnock has served since 2005 as senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. was once a co-pastor with his father. Mr Warnock also attended King’s alma mater Morehouse College, before studying for a Masters of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary.
Mr Warnock and Ms Loeffler’s race often devolved into personal attacks down the home stretch, with the GOP incumbent accusing her opponent of being a Trojan horse for “communism” and “socialism” and of hating police and members of the US military.
She has drawn extensively on Mr Warnock’s archive of sermons and writings, cherry-picking quotes without context to make him appear “radical.”
At their lone head-to-head debate in December, Ms Loeffler referred to her opponent as “radical liberal Raphael Warnock” no fewer than 14 times, drawing mockery even from Fox News for her “robotic” performance.
In the other contest’s final days, Mr Ossoff described a vote for him as Mr Biden’s last best chance to enact big parts of his ambitious legislative agenda.
“Mitch McConnell will try to do to Joe and Kamala [Harris] exactly what he did to President Obama. But we have too much good work to do,” the senator-elect said Monday at a campaign rally in Atlanta that was headlined by Mr Biden, also referring to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
He called Mr Perdue and the other GOP incumbent on the ballot, Kelly Leoffler, the “Bonnie and Clyde” of US politics, referring to corruption scandals.
Mr Perdue tapped into Donald Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud during November’s presidential election and baseless allegations that Democrats were at it again this time.
“If you’re as mad as I am about November, then rise up with us and fight,” Mr Perdue, who is quarantining due to close contact with someone who contracted Covid-19, said during a Monday night rally headlined by Mr Trump in Dalton.
“Fight by doing the only thing you can do right now, and that is to vote tomorrow,” Mr Perdue said in a video message. “If we don’t all get out and vote tomorrow everything President Trump has done to make America great again is gone.”
Both races were forecast by multiple polls as a dead heat in the final days, with Democrats were banking on a massive turnout in traditionally blue counties, and Republicans trying to drive up the vote count in heavily red rural and suburban areas – just like in November’s presidential race won by Mr Biden.
During a rally Monday in Atlanta, Mr Biden accused the two GOP incumbents as being lap dogs for Mr Trump.
“I took an oath to the US Constitution, and as president I don’t believe your US senators will work for me. They’ll work for the people for Georgia,” Mr Biden said. I’m not asking your senators to be loyal to me, but to be loyal to you and the US Constitution, period.
“If you vote for John and the reverend (Warnock), that’s what you’ll get,” he added. “They won’t put a president or the party first, they’ll put you first.”
A few hours later, at his own rally for Mr Perdue and Ms Loeffler in Dalton, the outgoing president mostly uttered false statements, statistics and allegations about his November loss. But he did at numerous points urge his loyalists to turn out in big numbers for the two GOP candidates.
The crowd early in the event chanted “fight for Trump.” Ever the showman, he pivoted off their battle cry into an endorsement of his fellow Republicans.
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News – Both Georgia Senate races too close to call but Democrats surge