Georgia voters will decide which party controls the Senate in 2 unusual runoff races in January

Georgia voters will decide which party controls the Senate in 2 unusual runoff races in January
Georgia Republican House candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon conspiracy theory supporter, holds a joint press conference with U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on October 15, 2020 in Dallas, Georgia.Dustin Chambers/Getty Images
  • Both of Georgia's US Senate seats are headed for runoff elections in January, according to Decision Desk HQ.
  • After Democrats fell short in several Senate races on November 3, the development gives them a new opportunity to win a majority in the Senate if they can win both races and Kamala Harris is elected vice president.
  • Republican Sen. David Perdue leads Democrat Jon Ossoff, but since Perdue dropped below 50% of the vote, a January runoff election was triggered, in accordance with state law.
  • On November 3, Democrat Raphael Warnock and appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler advanced to a separate Senate special-election runoff, which will also be held in January.

The 2020 elections won't end this year.

After Republicans significantly outperformed expectations in several key Senate races this month, control of the upper chamber has come down to Georgia's two seats — both of which are heading to runoff races in early January.

While Georgia's presidential race remains too close to call as ballots continue to be counted, the state is set to determine control of the upper chamber, a stunning development that gives Democrats a difficult but realistic pathway to having a unified government in Washington, DC.

As of Thursday evening, GOP Sen. David Perdue, who's running for reelection to a second term, had earned 2,446,587 votes, or 49.89% of the vote, while Jon Ossoff, his Democratic challenger, had won 2,343,909 votes, or 47.8% of the vote.

In accordance with Georgia law, the winner of any statewide election must earn at least 50% of the vote, or the contest heads to a runoff, which for this particular cycle will occur on January 5.


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If either Loeffler or Perdue prevail in January, Republicans will hold on to the Senate majority, likely preventing Democrats from passing much of the sweeping legislation — including healthcare reform, an economic stimulus, and green infrastructure policy — they pledged to pursue under a Biden administration.

On November 3, Democrat Raphael Warnock and appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler both advanced to the runoff for the Senate special election to fill the term of retired Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson. As of November 5, Warnock had 1,597,875 votes, or 32.83% of the vote, to Loeffler's 1,265,556 votes, or 26% of the vote.

In the special election, Warnock and Loeffler battled in a competitive "jungle" primary, which was open to candidates from any party affiliation. Since there were multiple candidates running, no one was expected to reach anywhere near 50% of the vote.

The winner of the special-election runoff will have to run for reelection to a new six-year term in 2022.


So far, Democrats have won 47 Senate seats and Republicans have secured 48 seats, according to Decision Desk HQ.

Democrat Mark Kelly is leading Republican incumbent Sen. Martha McSally in the Arizona Senate race. If Kelly wins his race, Democrats will have 48 Senate seats and need Warnock and Ossoff to win their respective races to reach 50 seats. If Sen. Kamala Harris becomes the vice president, she would then be able to provide the critical 51st vote in a 50-50 chamber, allowing Democrats to control the Senate.

Georgia is a longtime Republican stronghold and hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since Zell Miller in 2000.

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But Democrats have been working to turn Georgia blue for years, and many credit Stacey Abrams, the state's 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, with helping shift Georgia to the left, both through her race and her efforts to expand voting access in the state. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has also been instrumental in getting the party to invest in the state. Both Abrams and Bottoms made Biden's vice-presidential short list.


The Sun Belt state has had significant population growth and become increasingly racially diverse in recent years. Democrats have made key gains, particularly among white college-educated voters in and around Atlanta.

The Atlanta metropolitan area, which powered the candidacies of Biden, Warnock, and Ossoff, now accounts for roughly half of the votes in Georgia and is becoming only more influential in statewide elections.

"Georgia is a competitive state, and it would be malpractice to not pay attention," Abrams told Politico earlier this month.

But the choice for Georgia voters is stark.

Loeffler, a massively wealthy former top executive at a Fortune 500 company run by her husband, has not only embraced Trump but also campaigned for Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon conspiracy-theory supporter who just won a House seat in northwest Georgia. Loeffler was appointed by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019 to appeal to crucial suburban female voters but welcomed far-right support amid her competitive primary race this year.