Democrats take control of 117th Congress amid U.S. Capitol riots


Courtesy of Warnock for Georgia and Jon Ossoff for Senate

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff defeated Sen. David Perdue (R-G.A.), and Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-G.A.) in the Georgia runoff elections on Wednesday, marking the end of the highly contentious election cycle in Georgia.

by Lucy Ge and Irene Yuan

By securing dual victories in the Georgia runoff elections, Democrats took control of the Senate on Wednesday, paving the path for president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris to work in tandem with a Democratic House of Representatives and  Senate. Harris’ tie-breaking vote will grant the party control over the Senate, which currently stands at 50-50. 

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff defeated Sen. David Perdue (R-G.A.), and Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-G.A.) in the runoff elections, marking the end of a highly contentious election cycle in Georgia. Ossoff and Warnock’s victories were overshadowed by the news of Trump supporters breaching the U.S. Capitol the following day, forcing lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence to evacuate the building.

Warnock, a church pastor in Atlanta, will be the first Black senator in Georgia’s history and the first Black Democratic senator elected from the South. Ossoff, the first millennial in the Senate, will also be Georgia’s first Jewish senator. 

Grassroots organizations and leaders, most notably voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, worked to increase voter turnout in the state, spurring these Democratic victories by mobilizing voters and fighting back against voter suppression. Junior Dawson Chen, who is originally from Georgia, worked for Turnout Nation, a volunteer organization dedicated to raising turnout in Georgia, during the summer and fall of last year.

“I talked to one of my friends back there, and it was pretty great to see the increase in enthusiasm for politics, and I think that probably helped contribute to the Democratic victory in the Senate,” he said.

Leading up to the runoffs, polls differed on their predictions of the outcome, but all were very close. The week before the vote, AtlasIntel and National Research Inc. predicted a Democratic win for both seats.

“In the beginning, I didn’t really believe [the polls] because I was all like, ‘oh, Georgia’s a Republican state,’” Shayla He (9) said. “Then they came out both Democratic, [and] I was so surprised.”

Ossoff received 50.6% of votes and Perdue received 49.4% of votes with 99% of votes reported, while Warnock received 51% of votes and Loeffler received 49% of votes with 99% of votes reported. The Georgia Senate elections went to runoffs due to none of the candidates reaching the 50% of votes threshold needed by state law to win in the November general elections.

If the Republicans had retained their hold on the Senate, Biden would have been faced with significant opposition in passing his progressive agenda policies. The dual victories in Georgia grant Biden the chance to enact his planned policies on issues such as racial justice, climate change and COVID-19 relief. 

“Let’s unite now to beat this virus and rush economic relief to the people of our state and the American people,” Ossoff said in a video statement on Twitter on Wednesday after thanking Georgia voters for electing him. “I will work in the U.S. Senate to support a robust public health response so that we can defeat this virus.” 

Rev. Warnock issued a similar video statement Tuesday night while leading in the polls. 

“I am so honored by the faith that you have shown in me, and I promise you this: I am going to the Senate to work for Georgia, all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election,” he said.