The balance of political power in Washington, DC, was finally decided in the January 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia.
Two sets of candidates squared off in twin Senate races with Republican incumbents. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue on Tuesday night, according to projections from Decision Desk.
Democrats will hold 50 seats in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote. This will give Democrats unified control of the executive and legislative branches, albeit with very slim majorities.
In any other year, Republicans would have been seen as the clear favorites. Georgia historically is a conservative state, and Republican candidates have trounced their Democratic opponents in the most recent special elections for the US Senate in 2008 and 1992.
But demographic changes have been coming fast in Georgia and other states in the South. Combined with years of organizing from Georgia Democrats and voting rights groups, and President Trump accelerating change, Republicans weren’t as sure about a win in the state as they once were.
Vox has live results here, powered by our friends at Decision Desk. Polls closed at 7 pm ET.
The state of play in Georgia, explained
Throughout the race, some in-state observers said Loeffler and Perdue held the advantage, but cautioned this election cycle would be unpredictable.
For one thing, President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia in 2020, the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since 1992. Yet even though Biden won at the top of the ticket, Ossoff ran about 100,000 votes behind him, signaling a potential weakness for Democratic candidates at the Senate level.
The wild card in the Georgia race was President Trump. Georgia voters — including a number of moderate Republicans — repudiated Trump in November. Since then, the president didn’t go away quietly. Two months after the fact, Trump still refuses to concede an election that has been certified for Biden and has complained loudly and frequently that the Georgia election was rigged against him, personally attacking the Republican governor and secretary of state.
Democrats needed to turn out a diverse swath of voters to have a shot at winning these races: high turnout among Black voters, Asian and Pacific Islander voters, Latino voters, and white suburban women voters.
More than 3 million people cast votes in the early vote period — a record in a Georgia runoff — including over 123,000 people who didn’t vote in the November general election. This group makes up a small portion of the overall electorate, but runoff elections are all about base motivation.