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The two Democratic candidates for the U.S. senate in Georgia have stunned the nation and defeated the Republican incumbents, putting Democrats in solid control of congress.

With about 99 percent of the vote counted, the Rev. Raphael Warnock has defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff is opening up a lead on Sen. David Perdue, with thousands of remaining Democratic votes expected to be counted today from the Atlanta area.

That will leave the senate tied at 50-50, leaving incoming Vice President Kamala Harris to break any tie votes.

Additionally, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will become the majority leader, while Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will become the minority leader.



The victories will also enable President-elect Joe Biden to enact an ambitious agenda that includes liberal priorities like raising the minimum wage, approving additional economic stimulus to combat the effects of the pandemic and expanding health care.

A Democrat hasn’t won a U.S. Senate contest in the state since former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller in 2000.

And until Biden won it by just under 12,000 votes in November, a Democratic presidential contender hadn’t carried the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

But it has slowly morphed into a battleground — a change driven in part by demographic shifts, particularly in the economically vibrant area of metropolitan Atlanta.

According to a Georgia election official, turnout was around 4.3 million, remarkably high for a senate runoff.

Democrats benefited from a strong turnout among Black voters, who are on track to represent a much larger share of the electorate than they did in the general election, based on the turnout by precinct and early voting data.

In Calhoun County, which is 61 percent Black and where most ballots had been counted late Tuesday, Warnock was ahead by 19 percentage points out of 2,031 votes cast and Ossoff had an edge of 18 points, compared with Biden’s 15 percent margin out of 2,198 votes in November.

The election is a generational breakthrough for Southern Black Democrats.

Warnock, 51, the pastor who took the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, has spoken on the campaign trail about his life experiences as a Black man born and raised in the South.

He won in a state where people in predominantly Black neighborhoods waited in disproportionately long lines to vote last year, and where one study found that more than 80 percent of the residents hospitalized for coronavirus in the state were Black — vestiges of systemic racism in the democratic and health care systems.

Political power in the former Jim Crow South, where few Black Americans have been elected to statewide office, is inextricably linked to race.

And Warnock’s place in the political universe is distinct from the election of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, or Northerners like former President Barack Obama, previously a senator from Illinois, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Together, Warnock and Ossoff have the chance to expand Biden’s legislative agenda.

But Warnock alone was seeking to overcome a barrier reinforced in the South over and over again, crystallized in a saying that become popular during the civil rights movement: “The South doesn’t care how close a Negro gets, just so he doesn’t get too high.”

Today, Black Democrats in Georgia said such history was not lost on them.

Neither was how long it took the party to seriously pursue the possibility of success in Georgia.

“It took Democrats forever to invest in Georgia,” said Frazier Lively, a 71-year-old who lives in Macon and attended a recent rally. “Now you would hope what’s happening here is a message to what’s possible going forward.”

Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia who has forcefully condemned President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election there, said tonight that Trump is responsible for the election losses.

The blame “falls squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since Nov. 3,” Sterling said on CNN.

Asked what he would tell Trump if he were watching the interview, Sterling said: “Mr. President, you’ve already lost the state of Georgia. The thing now is, no matter what you say, you can’t undermine the people of Georgia’s integrity to know their voting system works and their vote is going to count.”

Overall, demographic trends show that the Georgia’s electorate is becoming younger and more diverse each year.

Like other metro areas, Atlanta’s suburbs have also moved away from Republicans.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton flipped both Cobb and Gwinnett counties.

Four years later, electoral maps showed a sea of blue in the more than half-dozen counties surrounding Atlanta.

In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams galvanized Black voters in her bid to become the country’s first African American woman to lead a state, a campaign she narrowly lost.


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