Democrat Senate candidate Jon Ossoff defeated Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) by a narrow margin in what became the Democrats’ second victory in Georgia’s dual runoff races on Tuesday, which were set to determine which party takes control of the Senate.
The Democrat sweep creates an evenly split upper chamber in Congress of 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, where any tied votes will be decided by Democrat Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, effectively giving Democrats control.
The Associated Press called the race just after 4:00 p.m. Wednesday. Ossoff secured 50.3 percent of the vote to Perdue’s 49.7 percent, a difference of about 25,000 votes, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
Ossoff, a 33-year-old CEO of a film production company, livestreamed a speech at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday declaring victory. “Whether you were for me, or against me, I’ll be for you in the U.S. Senate,” Ossoff said. He reiterated his campaign message of “health, jobs, and justice” and spoke primarily about his response to coronavirus, vowing he would “trust medical expertise, doctors, and scientists” and push for a “robust public health response so that we can defeat this virus.”
Perdue has not conceded the race, though his campaign released a statement just after 2 a.m. Wednesday morning before the race had been called saying it believed Perdue would emerge as the winner. “This is an exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate and the voices of Georgians are heard,” the statement read. “We will mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted. We believe in the end, Senator Perdue will be victorious.”
Perdue, a 71-year-old businessman turned senator, had edged out Ossoff by 1.8 percent, or about 88,000 votes, in the November 3 general election, but the Georgia Republican was forced into a runoff after just barely missing the 50 percent mark, by 0.3 percent, that was needed to win outright.
Polling throughout the runoff showed Ossoff with a slight edge over Perdue in the final weeks of the race, though the outcome still appeared to be a toss-up with most polls close enough to fall within the standard margins of error.
Ossoff and Perdue’s race marks one of the most expensive races in history, with Ossoff amassing $138 million as of December 16 compared to Perdue’s $89 million, according to Open Secrets. Factoring in Georgia’s other runoff race, between Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), fundraising so far has reached a staggering total of $443.8 million, which does not include outside spending.
A last-minute wrench was thrown into Perdue’s campaign after he announced he had come into contact with an individual who had tested positive for coronavirus. Though Perdue himself continued to test negative for the virus, he quarantined for the final six days of the race, which effectively sidelined him from the campaign trail.
Throughout the race, Perdue’s campaign focused on highlighting the Georgia Republican’s business expertise, acquired in part from his time working as a top executive at companies including Dollar General and Reebok. The campaign painted Ossoff as an inexperienced “trust fund socialist” who would not take the threat of China seriously after Ossoff omitted a payment he received from a Chinese Communist Party-tied company from his initial financial disclosure.
The race makes for the second time Ossoff, who will now be the youngest member of the Senate, has pursued office; the Georgia Democrat ran in 2017 for a U.S. House seat and lost to Karen Handel. The Washington Post assessed that Ossoff had touted his qualifications by using a “bit too much résumé puffery” while participating in what became the most expensive House race in history at the time.
During his second congressional bid, Ossoff promoted himself as a fighter of corruption given his film company produces investigative documentaries, and he repeatedly attacked Perdue by claiming he participated in insider trading at the start of the coronavirus economic crash despite the Senate Ethics Committee and Justice Department investigating Perdue and finding no evidence of such claims.
As for the other runoff, Warnock won his race more handily by about one percent, or around 50,000 votes, with 98 percent of precinct reporting as of the time of this writing, according to the Associated Press.