Victory in Georgia: Rev. Raphael Warnock Makes History After Defeating Kelly Loeffler in Senate Runoff

Following weeks of campaigning in a hard-fought runoff election, Rev. Raphael Warnock won his race against Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. Warnock, one of two Democrats running in the Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, made history by becoming the first Black person elected to the Senate from Georgia.

The 51-year-old pastor defeated Loeffler by more than 50,000 votes, according to the Associated Press. His win was just outside of the 0.5 percentage point margin that would trigger an automatic recount in the state. With the victory, Warnock also became the first Black Democratic senator from the South, NPR reported.

“We were told we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we proved that, with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible,” Warnock said in his victory speech Tuesday night. “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.”

In an interview with NPR, the senator-elect said his home state made him proud. “They decided to send a kid who grew up in public housing to the United States Senate to represent the concerns of ordinary people.”

Warnock and Loeffler were pushed to a runoff election in November when neither candidate managed to win more than 50 percent of the vote.

Senator David Perdue, Georgia’s other Republican senator, was also forced to a runoff when he and Democrat Jon Ossoff failed to clear the 50 percent threshold. Ossoff is the projected winner of their runoff race, but the vote is too close to call.

In a statement, President-elect Joe Biden congratulated Warnock, Georgia voters and voter organizers in the Peach State.

“I congratulate Reverend Warnock on his groundbreaking win last night and I am hopeful that when the count is complete, Jon Ossoff will also be victorious,” Biden said. “I congratulate the people of Georgia, who turned out in record numbers once again, just as they did in November, to elect two new Senators, demand action, and call on our elected leaders to end the gridlock and move us forward as a nation.”

The dual victory for Democrats would transfer control of the Senate from Republicans to Democrats. The higher chamber is evenly split between the two parties, but Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D) will provide the tie-breaking vote.

Warnock Can Thank WNBA, Black Women Organizers for Victory

Warnock ran a fierce campaign that was boosted by several groups, including Loeffler’s own WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream. The WNBA players, who wore “Vote Warnock” shirts last summer, are credited with giving Warnock’s a much necessary lift at a critical point in his campaign, according to ESPN.

He received the WNBA’s endorsement in August when he was polling at 9 percent and his opponent at 26 percent. He soon saw a rise in polling numbers and in donations. During the general election, Warnock secured 33 percent of the vote compared to Loeffler’s 26 percent. Support for the pastor continued to rise in the weeks leading up to the runoff.

Warnock –– and Democrats in general –– also has Black women voting rights organizers to thank for the massive voter turnout that secured his victory. Organizers like Stacey Abrams of Fair Fight and Nse Ufot of New Georgia Project mobilized voters throughout the state. Voting rights organizations registered voters, got them to the polls through poll ride programs and ensured their voting rights were not infringed upon at the polls.

The win –– his mother.

“…Because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator,” Warnock said in his victory speech.

Democrats Claim Double Victory

Democrats also claimed victory in Georgia’s other Senate runoff race. At the time of publishing, Democrat Jon Ossoff led incumbent Republican David Perdue by 17,025 votes. The race, which falls within the 0.5 percent margin for a recount, remains too close to officially call.

Despite the race not being called, Ossoff claimed victory in an early video message released on Dec. 6.

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