Democrat Jon Ossoff was declared the projected winner of his U.S. Senate runoff race in the southern state of Georgia on Wednesday afternoon by The Associated Press.
He joins the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who was declared the winner of his Senate race, also in Georgia, earlier Wednesday, giving their Democratic Party control of the U.S. Senate. The Democrats already control the House of Representatives, albeit by a narrower margin than two years ago.
Ossoff becomes the first Jewish senator from Georgia, a former Confederate state. At 33, he will be the youngest sitting U.S. senator. He maintained a tight lead over Republican Sen. David Perdue, whose six-year term expired Sunday. A former congressional aide and television documentary producer, Ossoff claimed victory early Wednesday before the AP and other news organizations declared him the winner.
His victory gave Democrats full control of Congress, ensuring that President-elect Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers can more easily enact their legislative agenda.
Warnock becomes the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia. He is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church once led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a race that was called by Edison Research and The Associated Press early Wednesday after the candidates exchanged leads overnight.
Warnock and Ossoff needed heavy turnout from African American voters, as did Biden two months ago, when his popularity with Black voters and other groups allowed him to capture Georgia's 16 electoral votes by a margin of almost 12,000 out of 5 million votes cast.
Warnock's win also crystalizes a yearslong political shift in Georgia, where growing numbers of minorities and college-educated residents have helped turn the state from a longtime Republican stronghold into a swing state.
"Georgia is in such an incredible place when you think of the arc of our history," Warnock said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" news show. "This is the reversal of the old Southern strategy that sought to divide people."
Biden quickly commended Warnock and Ossoff on Wednesday before Ossoff was declared the winner.
"I congratulate the people of Georgia, who turned out in record numbers once again, just as they did in November, to elect two new senators, demand action, and call on our elected leaders to end the gridlock and move us forward as a nation," Biden said in a statement.
Going into Tuesday's voting, Republicans controlled the 100-seat Senate with a 50-48 advantage, needing to win one of the Georgia contests to keep their majority and act as a bulwark against Biden's legislative proposals after he is inaugurated January 20.