(CNN) – The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, was elected to be Georgia’s first black senator, CNN screened early Wednesday morning, in a show of rejection of Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and her accession to President Donald Trump.
Control of the United States Senate is now down to Republican David Perdue, who is competing to keep his seat against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Warnock is Georgia’s first Democrat elected to the Senate in 20 years, and his election is the culmination of years of voter registration drives led by former Democratic State House Leader Stacey Abrams and other activists. President-elect Joe Biden also won in Georgia, the first time for a Democratic presidential candidate since the 1990s.
After no candidate for the Georgia Senate received 50% of the vote in November, two runoff elections had to be held. While Ossoff and Warnock ran on a unity ballot, Trump refused to admit his own defeat, sparking a fight within the Republican Party and disenchanted some of his supporters, who believed his false claims that the vote was rigged. .
Trump’s constant attack on Republican officials in charge of the election pressured the two Republican senators to make a decision: join the president in seeking to reverse the democratic outcome or risk losing Trump supporters, some of whom have been disenchanted with the electoral process. Trump appeared to recently pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a private call, urging him to “find” enough votes to reverse the results. Raffensperger refused.
But despite three counts and with no evidence of widespread fraud, Loeffler and Perdue decided to join the president in opposing Congressional certification of Electoral College results, in a final and misleading display of devotion to Trump supporters.
“The American people deserve a platform in Congress, allowed by the Constitution, for electoral issues to come up so they can be addressed,” Loeffler said in a statement Monday.
While Georgia is a rapidly diversifying state, Republican candidates entered the Senate runoff elections with an advantage.
In November, Perdue received more than 88,000 more votes than Ossoff, while Loeffler and the other Republican candidates received more votes than Warnock and the other Democratic candidates in the special election (Warnock received the most votes – 33% – overall ).
Republicans hoped their message that Georgia should be a deterrent to Washington would be successful, warning that if Warnock and Ossoff win, Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, they will be in charge.
“We are talking about the future of the country and we cannot leave it all to one party,” said Eric Tanenblatt, who served as chief of staff for former Republican Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue before Election Day. That could be an illusion on my part. But I think it’s going to be a great motivator.
But Republicans worry that Trump’s unwillingness to concede will jeopardize the party’s control in the Senate, even though the state has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 2000.
Heath Garrett, campaign manager for former Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, told CNN that Trump’s attacks on Governor Brian Kemp and Raffensperger were “counterproductive in trying to motivate grassroots Republicans to vote,” claiming that they had diverted the message from Perdue and Loeffler in the final days of the campaign.
“Senator Perdue and Senator Loeffler are being whipped by the president on one side and by Democratic money on the other,” he said.
Perdue and Loeffler had tried to avoid the Trump-sparked inter-party feud by targeting Ossoff and Warnock.
Perdue’s final message in a recent video was riddled with attacks, saying that if Republicans lose, undocumented immigrants will vote, Americans’ private health insurance will be “taken away,” and Democrats will fill the Supreme Court and withdraw funds from the Supreme Court. policeman.
“Let’s win Georgia, let’s save America,” Perdue told the camera.
Democratic candidates counter that they would “demilitarize” rather than withdraw funding from the police, create a legal path for undocumented immigrants and support a public option to decrease the number of the uninsured. None of the Democratic candidates have advocated adding judges to the court.
They argued they would do a better job of ending the coronavirus health care crisis, which has infected more than 20.8 million Americans and left at least 354,000 dead, and reopening the economy. They have pushed for political goals, including a debt-free public university and a new Voting Rights Act. And they have targeted Republican senators for their multi-million dollar stock transactions during the pandemic, claiming they profited from it. Senators have denied wrongdoing.
The special election was particularly brutal, beginning last year when Republican Rep. Doug Collins forced Loeffler, whom Kemp appointed to the post in 2019, into a race that was leaning to the right.
After no candidate received 50% of the vote, the second round became even more cruel, as Loeffler painted Warnock as an anti-police Marxist who would destroy America in the Senate.
“We have to get Georgians out there and vote because we know that Chuck Schumer’s radical agents of change are Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff,” Loeffler said on Monday’s election campaign. “They would take the funds from the police. They would block our economy. And we have to make sure we keep the line right here in Georgia. “
Warnock, in turn, has promoted his expertise from the Savannah projects to the pulpit of the historic Martin Luther King Jr. church, while responding to Loeffler.
“Kelly Loeffler spends tens of millions of dollars to scare you,” Warnock said in an ad. She is trying to make you afraid of me because she is afraid of you. Afraid that you understand how she has used her position in the Senate to enrich herself and others like her. Fear that you will realize that we can do better.
Perdue, a 71-year-old former CEO, downplayed Ossoff, a 33-year-old media executive, and said the Democrat doesn’t know how to create a job. In his debate in the fall, Ossoff called the senator a “felon” facing “multiple federal investigations for insider trading” while attacking “the health of the people” he represents. Perdue replied that the Democrat had worked for “China, communist and spokesman for terrorism,” claims that Ossoff called “ridiculous.”
The US Senate elections in Georgia have attracted enormous attention because of the stakes during the early years of the Biden administration and the state’s change from red to purple. Dr. Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, told CNN that the Senate election could be the first in which urban Georgia casts more votes than rural Georgia.
“We have seen tremendous excitement in early voting numbers, both in person and by mail, and we know that while Democrats will have an advantage when the polls open … Republicans are expected to have a strong election day,” he said. Seth Bringman, spokesperson for Fair Fight Action, a voting rights organization founded by Abrams.
Political groups spent about $ 520 million on advertising in the two second-round races, according to Kantar Media / CMAG, averaging more than $ 8 million per day. Republicans spent tens of millions of dollars more than Democrats.
With the Senate at stake, Trump rallied his supporters in northwest Georgia on Monday, while President-elect Joe Biden held an event in Atlanta.
Biden said electing Ossoff and Warnock would end the stalemate in Washington and allow Congress to provide US $ 2,000 stimulus checks to Americans. Trump urged the state to elect Perdue and Loeffler, and claimed that Biden would not take over the White House.
“We’re going to fight like hell,” said the president.
CNN’s David Wright, Caroline Kenny, and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism