True to the popular Ray Charles tune, Georgia is indeed on everyone’s mind today. In historic run-off races for the U.S. Senate, the state has been center-stage in determining the outcome of the country’s political future.
Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock faced off against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Jon Ossoff faced off against incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue.
As election results continue to pour in, history has already been made. Here are five things to know about why Democrats are poised to take control of the U.S. Senate after passing legislation for $2,000 stimulus checks, which Republicans then blocked.
With 98 percent of the vote in, Warnock has been projected the winner in his race garnering over 54,000 more votes than incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. It marks the first time in history a Black American will represent the southern state in the congressional body. Warnock is only the 11th Black senator in U.S. History and the first Democrat to win a Georgia Senate race in 20 years.
In a show of extreme resilience, Warnock overcame poverty, graduated from the historically Black Morehouse College and became pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as co-pastor alongside his father until he was assassinated in 1968.
His storied background helps him understand firsthand the challenges his constituents face, Warnock said. He promised not to forget them while in Washington.
“To everyone out there struggling today, whether you voted for me or not, know this,” Warnock said in a video he released from home. “I hear you; I see you, and every day I’m in the United States Senate, I will fight for you. I will fight for your family.”
A 33-year-old Jewish journalist and film producer, Ossoff released a statement declaring victory over Perdue after he took the lead, which stood at over 17,000 at the time of publication. Though the race has not been officially called, the outstanding vote count is in areas that heavily favor Ossoff.
“When all the votes are counted, we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate,” Ossoff’s campaign manager Ellen Foster said in a statement when he first surpassed Perdue. “The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon’s performance has been dominant.”
After Warnock’s win was declared in his race, the 33-year-old journalist and film producer released another statement.
“It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate,” Ossoff said Wednesday. “This campaign has been about health and jobs and justice for the people of this state, for all the people of this state. And they will be my guiding principles as I serve this state in the U.S. state.”
The unprecedented victories come after Democrats in the U.S. House voted to increase the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. Party leaders said they always wanted to give Americans more direct aid, but the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others in the Republican majority blocked it.
After President Donald Trump said the current payments were too low and said he wouldn’t sign the new covid-19 relief act until checks were increased to $2,000 and other demands were met, Democrats reconvened to pass the legislation.
Again, McConnell and Senate Republicans refused a vote on the matter and attached a future one to other demands made by Trump.
During a rally for Warnock and Ossoff, President-elect Joe Biden promised if the two were elected “that money will go out the door immediately to help people who are in real trouble.” He added if their opponents won “those checks will never get there,” according to Business Insider.
If Democrats gain control of the Senate, Biden will have less difficulty keeping the promises he made to Americans during his campaign.
Once the minority leader of the Georgia state house, Abrams has spent much of her career fighting against voter disenfranchisement and strengthening the Democratic infrastructure in the state, reported the New York Times. In addition to her public service, Abrams founded the New Georgia Project in 2014, which helped register Georgians to vote.
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After her narrow loss in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race – which many believe was a result of unscrupulous efforts to disenfranchise the Black vote – the Spelman graduate doubled down on her efforts by founding Fair Fight to combat voter disenfranchisement.
On Tuesday, Abrams tweeted, “With new votes joining the tally, we are on a strong path. But even while we wait for more, let’s celebrate the extraordinary organizers, volunteers, canvassers & tireless groups that haven’t stopped going since Nov. Across our state, we roared. A few miles to go…but well done!”
If Ossoff’s victory is solidified along with Warnock’s win, Abrams, along with other activists and organizations will have flipped the state completely blue at the presidential and senate level.
The Democratic stronghold and predominately Black DeKalb County is credited with helping the two Dems to victory. But Black Georgians across the state expressed pride at Warnock’s win.
Brandon ‘Booz’ Sands, 40, is a small business owner who worshipped at Ebenezer for over nine years under Warnock’s leadership. He said he voted for him because he knows personally that Warnock is “the real deal.”
In addition to sharing how he was able to grow his Groom Kings business with Warnock and Ebenezer’s support, Sands detailed a community outreach he participated in for six years with the church called “Cutting Through Crisis.” He said Warnock came into the church determined to reach people beyond the pulpit. Sands said they reached over 1,000 people a day through Cutting Through Crisis and that was just one of the outreaches Warnock began.
“When he [Warnock] came in, his whole agenda was to really get in contact with youth and help out with the neighborhood and as a young, small business owner, I could relate,” Sands told Moguldom in an exclusive interview. “I voted for him because I knew he was the real deal. I know this is what he does. I’ve seen it. He really is like that. I used to try and catch him slipping all the time, but he wouldn’t. He was just solid and it was like, ‘He’s really like that, really anointed, really good, he’s a dope orator, he’s brilliant.’ He was doing the work. He’s like Jesus Christ’s little cousin.”
His sentiment was echoed by attorney and former South Carolina Rep. Bakari Sellers.
“There are a lot of people yesterday who were punched in the gut because of Jacob Blake and what happened with the failure to charge the officers in that case, but there are a lot of people who got just a small glimmer of hope after these election results as they come in,” Sellers told CNN. “Now we know that Mitch McConnell can no longer block progress. We can now pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, The John Lewis Voting Rights Package, all of these things can now be passed because of these two young men in the state of Georgia. … That just tells you the gravity of the moment we’re in.”
Former President Barack Obama said late Congressman John Lewis was “smiling down on his beloved Georgia” today in a tweet.
Sands said while his knowledge of Warnock’s character makes his victory unsurprising, it is inspiring.
“I knew he was going to be something political because of how his sermons were, but to reach this height, whoa that’s huge. … It just gives me something to aspire to and lets me know that whatever racial barriers people put up, we’re still making progress,” Sands said. “If a Black man can get elected to the Senate in Georgia, there’s hope. From a racist standpoint that shouldn’t happen, ever. But obviously white people had to vote for him too.”
It is a view Warnock himself shares.
“When I think about the arc of our history, what Georgia did last night is its own message in the midst of a moment in which so many people are trying to divide our country, at a time we can least afford to be divided,” Warnock said.