Democrat Raphael Warnock ousted an incumbent Republican Wednesday in the first of two critical runoff elections in Georgia that will decide control of the US Senate at the outset of Joe Biden’s presidency, networks projected.
Warnock, a Black pastor with deep roots in Georgia, narrowly ousted his rival Senator Kelly Loeffler, CBS, NBC and CNN reported, in what is an embarrassment for President Donald Trump as he wraps up his four years in office.
Democrat Jon Ossoff held a narrow lead over Republican David Perdue in the other race, with a final outcome not expected until later on Wednesday.
With 98 percent reporting, Warnock was ahead of Loeffler by 1.2 percentage points, roughly 50,000 votes, while Ossoff led Perdue by more than 12,000 votes, according to Edison Research.
Democrats must win both contests to take control of the Senate.
A Democratic sweep would create a 50-50 split in the Senate and give Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, the tie-breaking vote after she andBiden take office on Jan. 20. The party already has a narrow majority in the US House of Representatives.
If Republicans hold the second seat, they will effectively wield veto power over Biden’s political and judicial appointees as well as many of his legislative initiatives in areas such as economic relief from the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, healthcare and criminal justice.
Most of the votes remaining to be counted were in counties Biden won in November, with roughly 13,000 ballots still to be counted in Democratic-leaning DeKalb County near Atlanta, according to Edison Research estimates, fueling Democratic optimism about an astounding Georgia sweep. No Democrat had won a US Senate race in Georgia in 20 years.
Warnock will become Georgia’s first Black US senator and Ossoff, at 33, would be the Senate’s youngest member if he wins.