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For the Next Two Years, the Senate Lies on Georgia

Since the Associated Press called the 2020 Presidential Election on November 7, Democratic Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have become household names as President-Elect and Vice President-Elect with a sweeping 306 electoral votes. Although many of these electoral votes came from predictable Democratic states, many “swing states” and even a few historically Republican states turned Democratic this November, including Georgia.

Georgia had not voted for a Democratic candidate since Bill Clinton’s first campaign in 1992. Biden and Harris were able to win over the historically conservative state thanks to Black voters and organizations that worked tirelessly to register and educate new voters. 

Voter suppression has always targeted non-white voters and even despite the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it still remains extremely prevalent nationally. One politician who especially fell victim to the results of voter suppression was Stacy Abrams. Abrams, a Democrat who formerly served in the Georgia House of Representatives, ran for governor of Georgia in 2018. Abrams lost to her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, by only 55,000 votes, or 1.4% according to the Washington Post. With Georgia’s historic voter suppression and Kemp’s role to oversee the election as the Secretary of State, many speculate that it was not a fair election.

Despite her loss in 2018, Abrams has committed herself to fighting for an equal voice for all voters. She established the Fair Fight organization, which according to its website: “promotes fair elections”, “encourages voter participation”, and “educates voters” both in Georgia and nationally. In an interview with NPR, Abrams stated that Fair Fight had registered 800,000 new voters as of November 2020, 49% of those were people of color and 45% were under the age of 30. 

Despite the importance of the Biden-Harris victory in Georgia, the Senate elections remain incomplete. Georgia’s election law requires a candidate to receive at least 50% of the vote to win outright on election night. Since no candidate for either Senate seat received at least 50%, there will be two Georgia runoff elections for Senate seats on January 5, 2021. 

Twenty-one different candidates ran for one of the Georgia senate elections in November. This election was a special election intended to fill the remaining two years of former Senator Johnny Isakson’s (R) term, who retired in 2019 due to health concerns. In January 2020, Governor Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler (R) to fill his seat until the November elections. According to the Associated Press, Loeffler won 1,273,214 (25.9%) votes; however, Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock secured 32.9% of the votes. According to his campaign website, Warnock, a Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, plans to fight for the “dignity of working people”. 

The other senate seat that lies in the hands of Georgia voters was a regular election this past November. Up for reelection, incumbent David Perdue (R), has served in the U.S. Senate since 2015 and received 49.7% of the votes this past election. Perdue has most recently made the news when he mocked and mispronounced then-Vice Presidential Nominee, and fellow Senator Kamala Harris at a Trump campaign rally. Perdue’s opponent is Democratic Jon Ossoff, 33, who won 47.9% of the votes in November. Ossoff would be the youngest sitting U.S. senator and is endorsed by one of his former mentors, Rep. John Lewis (D), who passed away earlier this year. 

Across the country, streets were filled with excitement the first weekend of November after Biden’s victory was announced. Throughout his campaign, Biden’s stated progressive policies have included increasing clean-energy jobs nationwide, providing more affordable education for college students, and expanding the Affordable Care Act.  However, the senate is still extremely important to the effectiveness of the new administration. Since the November general elections, Republicans have secured 50 senate seats, and Democrats have won 48 senate seats. The two Senate seats in Georgia will determine if there will be a Republican-majority–which would inevitably limit the extent of Biden’s progressive plans for the United States. 

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