Georgia Senate Wins by Democrats Followed Years of Party Organizing

State Republicans are left splintered after dual losses with no clear path forward

Jon Ossoff, shown campaigning on Monday, and Raphael Warnock will be the first Democrats to represent Georgia in the Senate since 2005.

Photo: jim watson/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

ATLANTA—Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won both Senate runoff races in Georgia, giving Democrats control of the U.S. Senate and easing the path for President-elect Joe Biden’s appointments and legislative agenda.

Mr. Warnock defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, while Mr. Ossoff took the seat held by former Republican Sen. David Perdue, whose term expired over the weekend. The new Senate will be evenly split between the two parties at 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris香蕉视频苹果下载 serving as the tiebreaker vote, if it comes to that.

Democratic control of the Senate means Mr. Biden has a friendlier chamber in which to advance judicial nominations, cabinet picks and legislation around Covid-19, climate change and infrastructure. Still, Mr. Biden must navigate between the chamber’s centrist Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and progressives including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Moderate Republicans, such as Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins, could also play deal-making roles.

Messrs. Warnock and Ossoff’s upset victories, projected by the Associated Press, coincided Wednesday with a riot in and outside the U.S. Capitol, where Congress was meeting to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the presidential race. A smaller group of President Trump supporters also gathered in Georgia’s Capitol, and Fulton County suspended counting ballots for the day out of an abundance of caution, county officials said Wednesday.

While Georgia Democrats celebrated the dual wins that gave their party control of the U.S. Senate, they said they must also press to make their new success durable in the GOP-led state.

Meanwhile, Republicans find themselves splintered. The angry pro-Trump mobs on Wednesday make the next steps even murkier, said Eric Tanenblatt, a longtime Republican strategist in Atlanta who was Georgia chairman of the conservative Senate Georgia Battleground Fund PAC this year.

香蕉视频苹果下载“The problem is we had this civil war in our party in the aftermath of the Nov. 3 election,” in which Mr. Biden defeated Mr. Trump in Georgia by about 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast, he said. The angry protests will make reconciliation much harder, he predicted.

“This is just a further example of the disruption that the president and his loyal supporters are causing,” he said. “It’s sickening to see some of the things I’m watching on TV,” he said. “We need to heal. We need to move forward.”

Mr. Trump claimed the Georgia race was fraught with fraud, forcing fellow Republican and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to defend an election he had overseen. The increasingly bitter exchanges between them were “not constructive, a total distraction” that undermined Republican voter turnout efforts in the runoffs, said Mr. Tanenblatt.

香蕉视频苹果下载The Democratic wins were driven by a mobilized Black voter community, an influx of new residents from more liberal states and years of organizing to turn the reliably Republican state into a politically competitive one.

Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock is set to be the first Black American to represent Georgia in the Senate, as the AP declared him the winner of a close runoff election over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Which party will control the chamber is still to be determined. Photo: Raphael Warnock/YouTube

Both Messrs. Warnock and Ossoff modeled their runoff races after Mr. Biden’s successful operation by running up big margins around cities like Atlanta, Columbus, Savannah and their suburbs to offset the Republican strongholds in the exurbs and rural regions.

Central to those plans was getting their voters to turn out for the runoff races two months after the November election. The second elections were required when none of the Senate candidates garnered more than 50% of the vote, as required by state law.

Unofficial results as of Wednesday show that counties with higher Black populations were among those that came closest to matching the record turnout they saw in November. And in those areas, Mr. Ossoff improved on his margins from his earlier matchup against Mr. Perdue. The results also largely showed that the two Democratic candidates were able to hold and even build off gains Mr. Biden made in suburban and exurban areas that previously were Republican strongholds, an analysis by The Wall Street Journal found.

Democratic organizers engaged Black voters from cities to farms to spur larger turnout. Kim Sowels of Rex, Ga., said she had no idea the runoffs were happening until Democratic canvassers knocked on her door after the general election, urging her to vote again on Jan. 5.

“I got a bigger understanding for why it’s important to us to pay attention to all of the elections, not just the presidential,” Ms. Sowels said, and she took pride in knowing Black voters were essential to Democrats’ recent gains. Now, she said, it is time to hold them accountable on such issues as police reform and combating the pandemic.

“We have the right to put people in office, and we have the right to pull them out,” Ms. Sowels said.

Southbound
Over the past decade the state has experienced a swell of domestic migrants. Some of the largest clusters of newcomers are from Democratic-leaning states in the North and Midwest.

Cumulative net migration to or from Georgia by state, 2010-2019

State voted for  Biden  Trump

+400,000 residents+300,000+200,000+100,000-100,000-200,000MORE PEOPLE MOVING TO GEORGIA MORE PEOPLE LEAVING GEORGIA 2010’11’12’13’14’15’16’17’18’19

Many Black voters in Middle Georgia returned for the runoffs races, bucking decadeslong assumptions that Democrats couldn’t get Black voters to participate in runoffs.

香蕉视频苹果下载“The entire Black Belt, when they’re coming out to vote, they’re caring just as much about the issues that are on the ballot and have been affected by these issues even more,” said Britney Whaley, a progressive activist based just outside Atlanta. She organized canvassing efforts reaching roughly 200,000 homes across 11 counties.

香蕉视频苹果下载One motivating factor for many of them was Ms. Loeffler’s attack ads aimed at Mr. Warnock as the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, the home church of Martin Luther King Jr. and the late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis.

Democrats also took advantage of the migration to Georgia from other states—many of them from places like California, where Democratic politics are much more dominant than they are in Georgia.

From 2010 to 2019, Georgia experienced a cumulative net gain of more than a quarter million domestic residents, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Most of them have come from states carried by President-elect Joe Biden in December such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the data. Among the top 10 states that contributed to Georgia’s migration boom, Mr. Trump carried just three of them: Ohio along with Tennessee and Florida, two states that share a border with Georgia.

Some of them flocked to places in Georgia like Gwinnett County, a booming suburban-to-exurban area outside Atlanta where many college-educated, nonwhite residents have flocked looking for relatively low costs of living and white-collar jobs.

Thomas Lin, 34 years old, moved to Gwinnett County a few years ago to take a job at a data-analytics firm. “I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said of the politics in Georgia, where he assumed his neighbors would be decidedly more conservative than in his former New York City home. “You can see the difference,” he said, but added that he took pleasure in being part of Georgia’s changing politics.

Bianca Keaton, the chair of the Democratic Party in Gwinnett County, worked to boost turnout operations after 2016, when Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton surprisingly won this area despite losing Georgia to Mr. Trump.

Then in 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams improved on Mrs. Clinton’s margins statewide in her unsuccessful run for governor. Ms. Keaton said the candidacy of Ms. Abrams—who would’ve been America’s first Black woman governor—helped inspire a lot of young, nonwhite and female Georgians to vote simply because of how close she came to victory.

“I just think about the historic nature of her race—and the resistance, somewhat, that her presence inspired” in some GOP quarters, Ms. Keaton said.

It’s unclear what the future GOP will look like without Mr. Trump in the White House, Mr. Tanenblatt said. “He is still a powerful force with the grassroots, but part of his legacy is, we lost these two Senate seats,” Mr. Tanenblatt said.

Rusty Paul, a former chairman of the Georgia GOP, said Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the November results and his insistence that he won were “a huge, huge burden that the candidates had to bear. The president put himself on the ballot again, and the anti-Trumpers came out in full force.”

The Georgia GOP faces a bigger problem in trying to lure back suburban voters, who abandoned the party in droves in recent years, Mr. Paul said. “ Donald Trump has driven a lot of moderate, traditional Republican voters to the other side,” Mr. Paul said. “The question is, is that permanent?”

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Corrections & Amplifications
Eric Tanenblatt is Georgia chairman of the conservative Senate Georgia Battleground Fund PAC. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said he was Georgia chairman of the American Crossroads Super PAC. (Corrected on Jan. 6)

Write to Joshua Jamerson at joshua.jamerson@wsj.com, Cameron McWhirter at cameron.mcwhirter@wsj.com and Valerie Bauerlein at valerie.bauerlein@wsj.com

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香蕉视频苹果下载 Appeared in the January 7, 2021, print edition as 'Democrats Win Control of Senate.'