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Democrats Gain Control Of Senate After Georgia Runoff Victories


The insurrection on Capitol Hill almost overshadowed a seismic political shift yesterday. Two Democrats, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, won Senate races in Georgia. Those victories will give Democrats control of the Senate. Emma Hurt is a political reporter with member station WABE in Atlanta. Good morning, Emma.

EMMA HURT, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: Georgia has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since the year 2000. Now there are two of them. This is a big deal.

HURT: It is a big deal. And, you know, beyond the policy implications, Raphael Warnock will be Georgia's first senator of color and Jon Ossoff will be its first Jewish senator. You know, as we saw with Biden's narrow victory here, this is really a vindication for Democrats in Georgia after years of organizing, registering new voters and generally rebuilding their party after Republicans took control. But I do want to note that there was actually a third runoff on this ballot for public service commission, and the Republican candidate won that race. So since that's an obscure election without much name ID, a lot of Republicans are taking that as evidence of a pure party loyalty vote, you know, independent of Trump and the chaos that we've seen politically and evidence of the fact that this state is by no means solidly blue.

KING: Oh, that's interesting. As Republicans, though, survey the wreckage of these Senate races, what are they saying? What are they blaming or who?

HURT: Yeah, yeah. There are about two themes emerging, I'd say. First is the criticism of Senator Perdue and Senator Loeffler's campaigns and their campaign message, that they really didn't have much of a positive message at all. They weren't telling people why they should want a Republican in office. The message was just don't vote for the other guys. They're socialists. They're scary. And secondly, President Trump simply. I mean, Perdue and Loeffler tied themselves really closely to the president even more so during this runoff. And, of course, Georgians narrowly defeated Trump in November. And so even though these Republican senators did better in November than the Democrats, the president, by refusing to concede his election, basically ensured that his name was still on this ballot, even though technically it wasn't. And I know that some people might be wondering, well, why did they do that? Why tie themselves to Trump? And one of my colleagues spoke with Brian Robinson, who's a Republican strategist here in Georgia, about that.

BRIAN ROBINSON: They had no choice but to absolutely stand by that. With one tweet, one tweet that cost $0 in a race where we spent $800 million, Trump could have destroyed any chance that they had by depressing the Trump base.

HURT: And, you know, there's also the fact that the president's claims of voter fraud very well could have depressed turnout by making people question the system. You know, anecdotally, I was driving back from president's rally in Dalton this week where he encouraged people to vote for Kelly and David, and I saw a boycott rigged runoff sign.

KING: On our way out, what do the next couple of months look like in Georgia?

HURT: Our legislative session starts next week, and Republicans still control the General Assembly, and a top priority for them is going to be voting reform. And it's going to be a really bloody fight. And then also 2022, one of these senators-elect, Raphael Warnock, is going to be up for reelection then.

KING: Reporter Emma Hurt with member station WABE. Thanks, Emma.

HURT: Thanks, Noel.

(SOUNDBITE OF KOETT'S "LAST NIGHT ON RIVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emma Hurt
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