Peach State law stipulates that if no single candidate receives a simple majority of a race's votes, the top two candidates advance to a runoff held in January. The special election between Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler is already sure to go to a runoff in January, with neither candidate capturing more than 50% of the vote.
Georgia's Senate elections have yet to get called for runoffs officially. However, the more the state counts ballots, the more it's looking like both Senate seats will still be up for grabs next year. As of this morning, Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue leads Democrat Jon Ossoff—but he has just below the 50% necessary to win under Georgia state law. So come January 5, it looks like we'll have another round of fighting for control over the Senate.
While failing to capture over half of the votes, Warnock managed to pull out ahead of all candidates with 32.9%. Loeffler split the Republican vote with GOP Representative and fellow Trump lover Doug Collins, both of whom clocked in at 26% and 20%, respectively. Meanwhile, with 98% reporting, Perdue leads Ossoff 49.8% to 47.8%, making it likely that we'll see all these candidates face off again in a couple of months.
As Georgia prepares for a presidential election recount, both races will have considerable implications in the Senate, where Democrats have lost footing in the battle for control of Congress's upper chamber. With a yet-to-be-called Biden presidency and a Democratic House of Representatives (most likely), a double Senate win in Georgia means the Democrats could head Congress and the White House. That would create an executive and legislative pathway to undo the harm caused by Trump and his wicked minions these past four years.
In other parts of the country, Democratic candidates for Senate mostly whiffed the opportunity to unseat their Republican incumbents. As of today in Maine, Sara Gideon is losing by at least 8 points to Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Over in Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst passed Theresa Greenfield, leaving her 7 points behind in the dust. And South Carolinians sent Sen. Lindsey Graham back to the Senate over Dem challenger Jaime Harrison by a whopping 10%.
After losing Democratic Sen. Doug Jones's seat in Alabama and nearly losing Sen. Gary Peters's seat in Michigan—Republican John James still refuses to concede—only John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Mark Kelly of Arizona managed to defeat their Republican opponents for a spot in the Senate. In total, the Dems have net gained only one seat in the Senate, still leaving the GOP more than enough breathing room to hang onto control.
However, the hotly contested race in North Carolina between Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham is still too close to call. With 94% reporting and Tillis ahead by almost two points, the incumbent has already claimed victory while Cunningham has held off his concession.
There are still 116,200 outstanding absentee ballots to count that can be received up to November 12 as long as voters postmarked them on or before Election Day. Election officials won't report those ballots' numbers until November 12 or 13, reports Raleigh News & Observer. While things certainly aren't looking too hot for Cunningham—who led Tillis up to Election Day—there may be a sliver of hope for Democrats looking to eke out a very last-minute victory in the Tar Heel State with the absentee votes. I won't hold my breath.
Obama is going to have to move to Georgia for the next two months.
— Jared Miller (@jcmi) November 5, 2020
So while North Carolina is within a hair's breadth of sending a Republican back to Senate, Georgia will become "the center of the political universe" until the runoff election in January.
Last year, Governor Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler to her seat in the Senate after former Sen. Johnny Isakson announced his retirement. She is a wealthy businesswoman and boasted that she's "more conservative than Attila the Hun" in one ad. Whatever the fuck that means.
On the other hand, Warnock serves as pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. himself preached. If elected, he would become Georgia's first Black U.S. Senator. Collins has already thrown his support behind Loeffler in what will be a knockdown, drag-out fight between the two opponents.
Though the jury is still out on the Perdue-Ossoff race, we're hours away from confirming that we'll see the two duke it out for another few months. Ossoff set fundraising records during his previous (failed) effort to run for Congress in 2017, and that will be key to his election come January. Republicans have won every Georgia runoff election since 1992, the last time a Democrat (Bill Clinton) won the state in a presidential election.
We're likely to see a lot more cash flowing into the race, with voters getting hounded with ads, flyers, calls, and VIP political visits encouraging people to vote. But a potential Biden victory in Georgia—and the soul of the Senate at stake—could shift the tide for a favorable outcome for Warnock. Here's CNN's take:
Handicapping the two potential runoffs is virtually impossible at the moment because of the level of uncertainty in the presidential race — and in Georgia in particular. If Biden winds up winning the state, and that's certainly at least a possibility as of this moment, then Democrats may well be energized heading into the runoffs.
Or maybe Republicans, who have long taken the state's conservative bent for granted, will see the two likely Senate runoffs as a chance to reassert their state's ideological lean. Plus, with the amount of money and national media attention (and scrutiny) that will land on all four of these candidates, it's hard to know who will blossom and who will wither.
Acknowledging how nasty the runoff will become, Warnock has already released an attack ad—on himself. In the 30 second spot, he claims he eats pizza with a fork and knife and hates puppies (which isn't true) before telling voters to brace for another brutal couple of months of campaigning.
"Kelly Loeffler doesn't want to talk about why she's for getting rid of healthcare in the middle of a pandemic," he says. "So she's going to try and scare you with lies about me."
Get ready Georgia. The negative ads against us are coming.
But that won’t stop us from fighting for a better future for Georgians and focusing on the issues that matter. pic.twitter.com/VN0YIA02MG
— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) November 5, 2020
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from these races is the great importance of the Black vote in Georgia. It will continue to determine the fate of both the presidency and the Senate this year. One million Black Georgians voted early this year, up from 712,000 four years ago.
Those increased numbers are, in part, thanks to the work done by Black activists like former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. After barely losing to Kemp in the governor's race in 2018, Abrams founded Fair Fight, a group focused on registering voters nationally and combating voter suppression. Combined with the increasing diversity of cities like Atlanta, the enfranchisement of Black people across the South is crucial to helping flip Georgia blue. And there's still a lot more work to be done.