Democrats win both US Senate run-off elections in Georgia

Georgia Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have won their US Senate run-off elections, giving Democrats control of the Senate, with vice-president-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote in an upper chamber that will soon be equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Ossoff, 33, was declared the winner late Wednesday afternoon against 71-year-old Republican David Perdue, who held the seat for the past six years and had the strong support of outgoing US President Donald Trump. Ossoff will be the youngest Democrat of the Senate.

Earlier Wednesday, Warnock won the other run-off race, becoming the first Black senator in Georgia's history. A pastor who spent the past 15 years leading the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. It was a stinging rebuke of Trump, who made one of his final trips in office to Georgia to rally his loyal base behind Loeffler and Perdue.

The two victories will give the Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, with Republicans holding the other 50 and the vice-president casting the tie-breaking vote. The Democrats also hold an 11-seat majority in the House of Representatives after the November election.

Trump's false claims of voter fraud cast a dark shadow over the run-off elections. The outgoing president raised the prospect that some votes might not be counted even as votes were being cast Tuesday afternoon.

"No evidence of irregularities," said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's top election official, in response to a question from a reporter. "The biggest thing we've seen is from the president's fertile mind of finding fraud where none exists."

Biden congratulates winners

Warnock's victory is a symbol of a striking shift in Georgia's politics as the swelling number of diverse, college-educated voters flex their power in the heart of the Deep South. It follows Biden's victory in November, when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.

Biden praised the races run by Warnock and Ossoff, as well as the voters, in a statement on Wednesday.

"Georgia's voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face, and they want it right now. On COVID-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more," said Biden. "They want us to move, but move together."

Warnock, 51, acknowledged his improbable victory in a message to supporters early Wednesday, citing his family's experience with poverty. His mother, he said, used to pick "somebody else's cotton" as a teenager.

"The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator," he said. "Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible."

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