ATLANTA (AP) — Democrat Raphael Warnock won one of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs Wednesday, becoming the first Black senator in his state’s history and putting the Senate majority within the party’s reach.
A pastor who spent the past 15 years leading the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler.
Warnock said Wednesday he hadn’t yet heard from Loeffler but told CBS “This Morning” “I’m hearing from the people of Georgia. People are feeling a sense of hope this morning.”
He noted that he grew up in public housing as one of 12 children and was his family’s first college graduate. “That I am serving in the United States Senate in a few days pushes against the grain of so many expectations but this is America and I want some young person who’s watching this to know anything’s possible.”
“Georgia is in such an incredible place when you think of the arc of our history,” Warnock told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He added: “This is the reversal of the old southern strategy that sought to divide people.
The focus now shifts to the second race between Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. The candidates were locked in a tight race and it was too early to call a winner. Under Georgia law, a trailing candidate may request a recount when the margin of an election is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage points.
If Ossoff wins, Democrats will have complete control of Congress, strengthening President-elect Joe Biden’s standing as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20.
Warnock’s victory is a symbol of a striking shift in Georgia’s politics as the swelling number of diverse, college-educated voters flex their power in the heart of the Deep South. It follows Biden’s victory in November when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.
At the core of the movement is Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia State House, who send a decade building the blue wall in Georgia, through her Fair Fight Organization which fought against voter suppression in the state.
Warnock, 51, acknowledged his improbable victory in a message to supporters early Wednesday, citing his family’s experience with poverty. His mother, he said, used to pick “somebody else’s cotton” as a teenager.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” he said. “Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
The Associated Press declared Warnock the winner after an analysis of outstanding votes showed there was no way for Loeffler to catch up to his lead. He held a lead of over 40,000 votes as of 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, but Warnock’s edge is likely to grow as more ballots are counted.
Georgia’s other runoff election pitted Perdue, a 71-year-old former business executive who held his Senate seat until his term expired on Sunday, against Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist. At just 33 years old, Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member.
Peoples reported from New York. Bynum reported from Savannah, Ga. Associated Press writers Haleluya Hadero, Angie Wang, Sophia Tulp, Ben Nadler and Kate Brumback in Atlanta contributed to this report.