Georgia Senate Runoff Elections: Democrats Take Control of the Senate

by Julia Dickinson

News

January 27, 2021

The results of the Georgia Senate runoff elections will shape the political climate on Capitol Hill. Those results should have made headlines on January 6; instead, amidst the chaos of the attack on Capitol Hill that day, they lost some of their share of the spotlight. But still, they should not be overlooked.

Much rested on the results of Georgia’s Senate elections; the stakes were perhaps even higher than they were for Georgia in the presidential election. Democrats went into the election looking to take control of the Senate — they needed to win two seats to split the Senate 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, where Vice President Kamala Harris would cast a tie-breaking vote if needed. Republicans, on the other hand, hoped to stand their ground. Democrat Ralph Warnock ran against Republican Kelly Loeffler, and Democrat Jon Ossoff ran against Republican David Perdue.1 Warnock and Loeffler were already scheduled for a January special election. The regular election for Ossoff and Perdue was carried out in November as normal; however, neither candidate was able to secure the fifty percent majority needed for the election to be called, so a runoff was scheduled for January.1 This left Georgia in a unique position with two Senate elections in January.

Democrats took the charge, earnestly campaigning for both of their candidates. They raised over a hundred million dollars for each campaign, a record for Senate races, and hosted countless events to encourage more people to vote for Warnock and Ossoff.2 The diversity of the candidates drew in voters from Georgia’s growing cities, which largely lean Democratic. Suzie Marcus ‘22 says, “It’s cool to see the first Jewish and first Black Senators from Georgia.” She also notes that “Democrats geared their campaign towards young voters. Ossoff has a TikTok.” The impact of the youth vote has increased with the increased turnout of youth voters.3 People have used social media as a tool to rally young voters, and it has worked: the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement says that 52-55% of people ages eighteen to twenty-nine cast ballots, a significant increase from recent years.3 Since the youth vote leans Democratic, it was vital for the Georgian Democrats to bring young people to the polls.3

On the other end of the spectrum, Republicans were not doing much to support their candidates. This was perhaps driven by Donald Trump, who barely put any effort into helping the Georgian GOP candidates. Instead, he chose to focus on spreading lies about the presidential election, claiming he had won when clearly he had not, and building distrust in elections among his supporters.4 His claims of a corrupt election, though false, could have kept Georgian Republicans away from the polls.4

On January 20, both Warnock and Ossoff were sworn into the Senate.5 Along with Alex Padilla (D-CA), appointed to take Kamala Harris’ Senate seat, they shifted the Senate majority to the Democratic Party.5 This should make it easier for Democrats to confirm Biden’s cabinet and pass policies and laws. As Suzie says, “The four disastrous years with Trump and a [Republican] Senate majority together showed people how easy it is to pass laws with a Senate majority and a president of the same party.” Republicans will struggle against the Democratic majority not only in the Senate, but in the House of Representatives and in the Executive Branch as well. The Democrats have this majority and political opportunity largely because of Warnock’s and Ossoff’s wins in Georgia.


1 Amy Gardner and Erica Werner, “Georgia certifies Ossoff and Warnock victories, paving way for Democratic control of Senate,” The Washington Post, January 19, 2021,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/georgia-certifies-ossoff-warnock-victories-paving-way-for-democratic-control-of-senate/2021/01/19/8b9cf672-5a59-11eb-a976-bad6431e03e2_story.html.

2 Rick Rojas, “Democrats in Georgia Runoffs Bring in Record Haul,” The New York Times, December 25, 2020,
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/25/us/politics/georgia-senate-record-fundraising.html.

3 Kalhan Rosenblatt, “Gen Z is using TikTok to encourage youth voter turnout in Georgia’s runoffs,” NBC, January 4, 2021,
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/gen-z-using-tiktok-encourage-youth-voter-turnout-georgia-s-n1252787.

4 Richard Fausset, “Georgia Certifies Senate Victories of Warnock and Ossoff,” The New York Times, January 19, 2021,
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/us/warnock-ossoff-senate.html.

5 Barbara Sprunt, “With New Georgia Democrats Sworn In, Democrats Officially Control The Senate,” NPR, January 20, 2021,
https://www.npr.org/sections/inauguration-day-live-updates/2021/01/20/958531015/new-georgia-senators-sworn-in-democrats-now-officially-control-the-senate.

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