Constitutional law attorney Mark Smith provides insight into the Georgia Senate runoffs.
Democrat Jon Ossoff on Wednesday morning claimed victory over Georgia Republican David Perdue in a critical runoff election that will determine which party controls the Senate, even as the race remains too close to call.
"It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve in the Senate," Ossoff said in brief remarks delivered virtually. "Whether you were for me or against me, I will be for you in the U.S. Senate," he said. "I will serve all of the people in this state. I will give everything I've got."
But the contest between Ossoff and Perdue, whose Senate term ended on Sunday, is still neck-and-neck, with tens of thousands of votes yet to be tallied. As of 7 a.m. EST Wednesday, Ossoff had 50.2% of the vote with 98% of the results reported, according to Fox News projections. His lead is currently within the 0.5% threshold that would qualify for a statewide recount of the vote.
Fox News has not called the race.
Ossoff, 33, who would be the youngest member of the Senate if he maintains his lead over Perdue, said that he would prioritize COVID-19 relief upon taking office.
"Let's unite now to beat this virus and rush economic relief to the people of our state and to the American people," he said. "I will work in the U.S. Senate to support a robust public health response so that we can defeat this virus."
Other Democrats congratulated Ossoff Wednesday morning, including Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate.
"In 2017, Georgia’s next U.S. Senator @ossoff confronted a dark chapter in our nation’s story by standing for office," she tweeted. "Now Jon Ossoff will stand for all of Georgia in the fight for healthcare, jobs + justice. And our nation will be all the better for having him. Congratulations!"
In a statement issued shortly after 2 a.m., Perdue's campaign said the race is "exceptionally close" but predicted victory.
"As we've said repeatedly over the last several weeks and as recently as this evening, this is an exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate and the voices of Georgians are heard," the Perdue campaign said.
In order to flip the Senate, Democrats need to win both runoffs — and inched closer to doing so on Wednesday after Raphael Warnock was projected to defeat incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
"Georgia, I am honored by the faith that you have shown in me, and I promise you this tonight: I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election," Warnock, who will become the first Black senator from Georgia, said in brief remarks delivered virtually.
With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, the stakes for the twin contests were astronomical, eliciting national attention and hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending in just two months to a once reliably red state that's become a must-win battleground. In November, Joe Biden defeated President Trump in Georgia by less than 12,000 votes out of the 5 million cast in the state, winning 16 electoral votes. Both Biden and Trump campaigned in the state on Monday.
If Ossoff defeats Perdue, Democrats would secure a 50-50 split in the upper chamber, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris then casting tie-breaking votes.
But if Perdue wins and the GOP retains a majority, Republicans would be able to block Biden's Cabinet appointments, legislative agenda and judicial nominees — and have the power to "chart the course, not just for four years, but for the next generation," the incoming president told supporters during a drive-in rally on Monday.