Georgia U.S. Senate results certified; Ossoff and Warnock set to take office Wednesday

Paves way for Democratic flip of chamber
The U.S. Senate runoff victories of Democrats Jon Ossoff, left, and Raphael Warnock were certified Tuesday. The two are expected to take office Wednesday. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Credit: wire

Credit: wire

The U.S. Senate runoff victories of Democrats Jon Ossoff, left, and Raphael Warnock were certified Tuesday. The two are expected to take office Wednesday. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Georgia’s secretary of state has certified the results of the U.S. Senate runoff victories by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, clearing the way for the two Democrats to take office Wednesday and flip control of the Republican-held chamber.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office said Tuesday that all 159 counties have certified the results of the Jan. 5 election. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office confirmed he immediately signed paperwork, required by state law, that verifies the defeats of former Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

The two Democrats are set to be sworn in Wednesday afternoon, shortly after President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take office. Ossoff, who will become the state’s first Jewish senator, and Warnock, who will become the state’s first Black senator, shift the Senate’s balance of power to a 50-50 split, with Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.

There was a slight delay Tuesday as Fulton County election officials recertified their results. State officials said totals from two north Fulton precincts weren’t properly uploaded and the final tallies netted the two Republicans a few hundred more votes, not enough to change the outcome. Next up, the paperwork signed by Kemp will be delivered to Washington before the swearing-in can take place.

Both Loeffler and Perdue conceded days after the vote in the most expensive Senate races in the nation’s history. The two Republicans tied themselves directly to President Donald Trump throughout their campaigns, touting their loyalty to him even as he tried to overturn Georgia’s presidential election results and maligned other state Republican officials.

Both supported Trump’s push to invalidate the state’s Electoral College votes in Congress, though Loeffler reversed course on Jan. 6 hours after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. Perdue, already out of office, has declined to comment on the election’s aftermath aside from giving a concession speech without mentioning Ossoff’s name.

The certification was finalized as Loeffler was delivering her farewell address from the U.S. Senate floor. She lauded her votes boosting coronavirus relief funding and promoting conservative causes, and she slammed the “mainstream media” — singling out The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — for its coverage of the races.

“I encourage each of you to uphold our uniquely American values — and preserve the American dream,” Loeffler said. “And I will continue to champion our party’s values from whatever position I occupy. America depends on it. Americans are counting on us to be their voice.”

The Democratic victories pave the way for Biden to pursue a legislative agenda that includes expanding voting rights, combating climate change and boosting efforts to contain the pandemic. They also allow Democrats to lead an impeachment trial on charges that Trump incited an insurrection when hundreds of his followers stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The wins by Biden, Ossoff and Warnock marked a striking political metamorphosis in Georgia. Until November, Georgia hadn’t voted Democratic in a presidential race since 1992 and hadn’t elected a Democratic statewide candidate since 2006. Over a nine-week stretch, Democrats broke both those losing streaks.

In an advisory, Ossoff’s aides said he planned to be escorted to the chamber by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is an outspoken supporter of civil rights expansions and an overhaul of the criminal justice system.

He’s set to take his oath of office on a book of Hebrew scripture once owned by Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, who led The Temple synagogue in Atlanta from 1946 to 1973. Rothschild’s alliance with Martin Luther King Jr. and his opposition to segregation led to the bombing of the congregation in 1958 -- and a political reawakening of the city’s Jewish community.