Ossoff scores victory over Perdue in Senate runoff

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Democrat Jon Ossoff has defeated Republican David Perdue in the remaining Georgia Senate race — clinching control of the chamber for his party after fellow Democrat Raphael Warnock triumphed in the state’s other runoff election.

Ossoff, an investigative journalist and former congressional candidate, had 50.3 percent of the vote to Perdue’s 49.7 percent when The Associated Press called the race on Wednesday, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

Ossoff’s victory resets the Senate’s balance of power at 50-50 and comes after Warnock vanquished incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler earlier on Wednesday, securing a Democratic majority for the first time since 2014 due to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s ability to cast tie-breaking votes in the chamber.

Democrats’ twin victories in Georgia have huge implications for President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, as he will not be forced to navigate a Republican Senate and negotiate with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during the opening years of his administration.

The Georgia results represent a triumphant coda for Democrats’ 2020 campaign season, which began last year with high hopes for wresting back control of the Senate.

Instead, Democratic candidates fell short in many battlegrounds across the country, while the races for Georgia’s two Senate seats proceeded to runoffs after no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote in the November election.

In that election, Perdue — a former business executive and first-term senator — narrowly missed the 50 percent threshold to win reelection outright, but still ran roughly 88,000 votes ahead of Ossoff.

Since then, the two candidates have been locked in a competitive one-on-one contest, with Ossoff repeatedly attacking Perdue over the timing of his stock trades amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ossoff leveled especially fierce criticism during an October debate, prompting Perdue to skip a subsequent televised forum in December.

For his part, Perdue frequently pointed to the fact that he earned tens of thousands of more votes than Ossoff in the November, and accused his opponent of being a “trust fund baby” with “scandalous ties” to foreign powers.

In recent weeks, however, Perdue’s reelection battle had become increasingly entangled with President Donald Trump’s own effort to reverse the outcome of the 2020 White House race.

The president’s particular interest in overturning the election results in Georgia, where he lost to Biden, complicated campaigning for Loeffler and Perdue — who both clung to Trump as he attacked Gov. Brian Kemp and other Republican state officials.

The two candidates had sought at once to defend the president’s election fraud allegations while also imploring Republican voters to return to the polls in January for their runoff races.

Perdue was also quick to express support for Trump’s bid to boost coronavirus stimulus checks to $2,000, a last-minute demand by the president that broke with the public posture of most Senate Republicans.

After McConnell blocked the proposal, Ossoff and Warnock began campaigning on the increased payments.

More recently, the runoff races had been rocked by news reports of a call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which the president pressured the state’s top elections official to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory.

GOP lawmakers and party officials had grown increasingly anxious that Trump’s rhetoric aimed at sowing doubt about Georgia’s election processes could cost Republicans the Senate.

And in the final days before the election, Perdue was forced to abandon the campaign trail when he began quarantining after coming into close contact with an individual who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ossoff, at 33, is the youngest Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate since Joe Biden in 1972.

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