- Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia were both sworn into office on Wednesday.
- The senators were sworn into office by Vice President Kamala Harris.
- Their wins give Democrats control of the Senate for the first time since 2015.
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Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia were both sworn into office on Wednesday, a landmark achievement that gives Democrats their first Senate majority since 2015 and paves the way for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to advance their legislative agenda.
Warnock and Ossoff, the first Black and Jewish senators to represent Georgia, respectively, were sworn into office by Harris, who just hours earlier became the first Black, South Asian, and female vice president in US history.
In winning their races, Warnock and Ossoff defeated Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, a stunning blow to the Georgia GOP, which for years possessed an ironlike grip over statewide elections.
With the Senate evenly divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Harris, who now presides over the chamber that she served in for four years, will have a pivotal tiebreaking vote that gives Democrats unified control of the federal government for the first time since 2011.
Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California, Harris’s successor in the Senate, was also sworn into office on Wednesday, becoming the state’s first Latino senator.
For Warnock and Ossoff, their long road to the Senate involved reshaping conventional wisdom of how Democrats could compete in a fast-growing but still conservative-dominated Deep South state.
Warnock, the 51-year-old Black pastor of the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which Martin Luther King Jr. once led, engaged with Black voters of faith, suburban voters, and rural voters whom many in the party had long failed to activate.
Ossoff, who at 33 years old is the first millennial senator, followed a similar electoral path, campaigning with Warnock as a joint ticket as they crisscrossed territory that was formerly part of the Democratic coalition but had shifted to the GOP over the past 20 years.
The electoral breakthroughs for Democrats had been a long time coming in a state where the GOP has held the governor’s mansion since 2003 and control of both Senate seats since 2005.
After disappointing Senate and gubernatorial campaigns over most of the past 18 years, Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, came within 55,000 votes, or 1.4 percentage points, of winning the race over now GOP Gov. Brian Kemp.
Biden in November became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory.
In a November special election, Warnock emerged with the most votes, with Loeffler coming in second place, in a multicandidate primary that included members of all parties. But no candidate received at least 50% of the vote.
While Perdue won more votes than Ossoff in their separate Senate race, Ossoff held Perdue below 50%.
In accordance with Georgia law, the winner of any statewide election must earn at least 50% of the vote, so both contests headed to dual January runoffs.
Democrats, fresh off Biden’s presidential win, continued to organise and focus on turning out early voters, while state Republicans like Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger spent weeks fighting against internal party divisions and President Donald Trump’s debunked claims that he won the state in the presidential election.
It appeared to make all the difference.
Warnock and Ossoff, sons of a state that was once part of the Confederacy and served as a centre of the civil-rights movement, are the newest members of the Senate.