UPDATE #2: The Associated Press projected Wednesday afternoon that Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff has won his Senate runoff election. His victory gives Democrats control of the U.S. Senate for the opening of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency.
Democrats needed to win both of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections on Tuesday to claim the Senate majority.
The 33-year-old Ossoff defeated 71-year-old Republican David Perdue, who held the seat for the past six years and had the strong support of President Donald Trump.
In the other Senate race, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
With the two Democratic victories, the Senate will have a 50-50 seat split between the parties. But the vice president casts tie-breaking votes, and that will be Democrat Kamala Harris.
UPDATE, Jan. 6: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated GOP incumbent Kelly Loeffler in one of the two Georgia runoff races, ABC News projected early Wednesday morning.
A prominent Black preacher who leads the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, Warnock secured a barrier-breaking victory in Georgia.
The native-born son, who delivers sermons from the pulpit that once belonged to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will become the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia -- a feat that closes out an election cycle dominated by the role of race in politics.
He is only the second Black U.S. senator elected from the south since Reconstruction, and among a rare class of 10 Black Americans who have served in the upper chamber.
ABC News' projection came just before 2 a.m. ET, concluding that Warnock will topple Loeffler, a prominent Republican donor and staunch ally of President Trump who earned political office after being appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to the seat.
Warnock declared victory in Georgia with a virtual speech to supporters in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
"The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” Warnock said.
“So I come before you tonight as a man who knows that the improbable journey that led me to this place in the historic moment in America could only happen here,” Warnock continued. “May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold of the American dream.”
Taking a page from President-elect Joe Biden's playbook, Warnock went on to say he'd be a senator for those who didn't vote for him as much as for those who did support him.
“To everyone out there struggling today, whether you voted for me or not, know this, I hear you, I see you. And every day I'm in the United States Senate, I will fight for you,” he said.
The other race in Georgia between incumbent GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff remained too close to call early Wednesday, although Ossoff held a slight lead and most of the votes yet to be counted were in Democratic-leaning counties.
Ossoff spoke Wednesday morning and thanked his supporters, projecting confidence at his chances of winning the race.
"Georgia, thank you so much for the confidence that you have placed in me. I am honored, honored, by your support, by your confidence, by your trust," he said in a live-streamed speech.
Ossoff said his campaign has been about health, jobs and justice for Georgians. He added that he intends to serve all people in the state and would focus on combating the coronavirus pandemic and delivering economic relief to people who have been impacted.
"Whether you were for me or against me, I will be for you in the U.S. Senate. I will serve all the people of the state, I will give everything I've got to ensuring that Georgia's interests are represented in the U.S. Senate," he concluded.
ORIGINAL REPORT, Jan. 5: ATLANTA, Georgia -- Control of the U.S. Senate and the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda hangs in the balance on Tuesday in Georgia, with GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler facing Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock in twin runoff elections.
As of late Tuesday night, although 98% of the vote was in, it was still too close to call either of the races.
Gabriel Sterling, the state voting system implementation manager, said the largest portion of remaining uncounted votes were out of DeKalb County, a heavily-Democratic suburban Atlanta area.
"The biggest tranche of votes that exists out there in a single bucket right now still looks to be the advanced voting in DeKalb County," Sterling said.
Both Ossoff and Warnock need to win outright for Democrats to flip the U.S. Senate and hold a 50-50 majority, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a tie breaking vote.
The outcome of the contests, two weeks before Biden’s inauguration, will either hand the new administration power to maneuver on policy and nominations or leave Republicans with influence over Biden’s legislative proposals and nominees for his administration and the federal bench.
"You will make a decision about who is holding these most powerful positions that will chart the course of Georgian families and families all around our country. So I’m here to thank you, on behalf of Joe and myself, for what you did in November. And I'm here to ask you to do it again," Harris said in Savannah, Georgia. "Everything is at stake."
In the highly competitive contests, the Democrats -- Ossoff, a once-unsuccessful congressional candidate and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a prominent Black preacher who leads the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church -- are seeking to secure the slimmest of majorities in the Senate.
By relying on shifting demographics in a rapidly evolving state and the influence of minority voters, particularly Black voters, both are aiming to repeat Biden’s November victory -- when he became the first Democrat to win Georgia since 1992. Biden capitalized on Atlanta’s population boom and the diversity of the surrounding suburbs to offset Republicans’ advantage in rural parts of the state.
Both Democrats and Republicans have been campaigning in tandem. But the stakes are higher for Ossoff and Warnock: If just one fails to knock off either Perdue or Loeffler, who are campaigning in lockstep with President Donald Trump, the GOP will retain control of the Senate for at least the next two years.
In a sign of the importance of the dual Senate races, Biden, Harris, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence all traveled to Georgia in the days leading up to the election to rally supporters and activate their respective bases.
"It's a biggie. Our country is depending on you. The whole world is watching the people of Georgia," Trump said of the contests as he stumped for Loeffler and Perdue on the eve of the runoffs in Dalton, which sits in the northwest portion of the state near the border of Tennessee.
"Georgia, the whole nation is looking to you to lead us forward," Biden said at a drive-in rally on election eve, during his second trip to Atlanta to campaign alongside Warnock and Ossoff. "The power is literally in your hands unlike any time in my career -- one state. One state can chart the course, not just for the next four years, but for the next generation."
History was on the GOP's side since runoffs in the state have historically favored Republicans. Even more than a quarter century ago, when former President Bill Clinton captured Georgia's electoral votes, Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler led in the general election but ultimately lost to Republican Paul Coverdell in the overtime rematch.