The Jolt: Raphael Warnock exults, Jon Ossoff claims victory, and Republicans wonder what happened

01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — US Senate Democrat candidates Jon Ossoff (left) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (center) join the stage with President-elect Joe Biden (right) following his remarks during a campaign rally in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — US Senate Democrat candidates Jon Ossoff (left) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (center) join the stage with President-elect Joe Biden (right) following his remarks during a campaign rally in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

It is no wonder that America can be such a puzzling place to outsiders.

Early Tuesday, a Wisconsin district attorney announced he would be filing no charges against the white police officer who fired seven shots into the back of Jacob Blake last summer, as the Black man walked away from the officer’s attempt to arrest him.

That same day, 800 miles away, Georgia voters sent the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church to the U.S. Senate. The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior shepherd of the same congregation once led by Martin Luther King Jr., will become the first elected Black Democratic senator – not just from Georgia, but from the entire South.

Without stepping outside his campaign headquarters, Warnock this morning was making the rounds on morning news shows. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he was asked if President Donald Trump’s electoral denialism played a role in his victory over GOP incumbent Kelly Loeffler. Said Warnock:

“I think the people of Georgia heard a very clear contrast. I talked about how I intend to represent them, and my opponent was focused on how she would represent her own interest. And I think the folks heard that loud and clear. We’re dealing with folks that are facing eviction.

“People have been waiting for months for relief, and they saw politicians play the same old games last week. We should have already passed this $2,000 stimulus check, and I can’t wait to get to work.”

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Minutes later, Democrat Jon Ossoff claimed victory over Republican incumbent David Perdue in his Senate race. He would become the second Jewish candidate to win a statewide race in modern Georgia -- and the youngest since Joe Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972. (Sam Nunn, elected that same cycle, was 34). Ossoff’s remarks, livestreamed over YouTube and Facebook, echoed those of Warnock:

“I will work in the U.S. Senate to support a robust public health response so that we can defeat this virus, putting Georgia’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the lead, trusting medical expertise, doctors, and scientists to bring the tools to bear, the technology to bear, the ingenuity to bear, and the resources to bear necessary to stop the spread of this virus to defeat it and to get our daily lives back — and to rush direct economic relief to people who need help right now.”

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Neither Loeffler nor Perdue have conceded. The message from the Perdue campaign signaled what could be a lengthy legal fight over the outcome:

“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.”

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Attention today quickly turns to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory. Already posted:

Four Republican U.S. House members from Georgia, in addition to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, said they will object to tallying the Electoral College votes from their state and others when Congress gathers in joint session Wednesday.

The state’s longest-serving GOP lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, has taken the opposite stance. He joined a dozen other Republicans in the House to pen a letter questioning both the legality and logic behind refusing to accept election results in states won by Democrat Joe Biden.

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However, given last night’s results, Loeffler’s participation in today’s proceedings could be subject to change.

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As of this writing, Raphael Warnock was Tuesday’s leading vote-getter, with 2,227,296 ballots.

But longtime PSC member Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, a former Democrat turned Republican who didn’t have the money to declare that civilization would end if he weren’t re-elected, appears to have outpolled both Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

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A morning data point from Ryan Anderson, whose Georgiavotes.com has served us well this election season:

I still can’t believe we went from Perdue winning early in-person votes by 206,327 in November to Ossoff winning them by 25,943 (so far) in January. Sure 600,000 fewer people voted EIP, but that is an all-time own goal.

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There is no little irony in the fact that the Rev. Raphael Warnock will be filling out the term of the retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who formed a close relationship with the pastor -- a situation that helped dissuade Warnock from challenging Isakson for his seat in 2016. The fact that Kelly Loeffler attacked Warnock’s past statements made from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church -- snippets often taken out of context -- did her no good.

And by the way: The Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Ebenezer on Jan. 18 is going to be something to watch.

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As Georgians awoke to a new political landscape on Wednesday, Stacey Abrams can claim payback against Gov. Brian Kemp, her once-and-probable-future rival. Abrams spent much of the past decade constructing the statewide apparatus that laid the groundwork for Democratic successes, including Joe Biden’s victory in November.

And yet, life for Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both targets of President Trump’s campaign to overturn his Nov. 3 defeat in Georgia -- may have just gotten more bearable. Their refusal to bend to Trump’s will looks much smarter this morning.

And Georgia GOP chair David Shafer’s decision to back Trump’s play here isn’t likely to age well. There is trouble ahead for the GOP in Georgia. From Erick Erickson, the conservative pundit:

Here’s the problem for the GOP when you look at the exit polling last night and where the voters came from and did not. College educated white voters and suburban women drifted back to the GOP, but Trump voters stayed home. GOP can’t win without both. Those groups hate each other.

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To that point, this morning’s print column, based on an interview with House Speaker David Ralston, was written before voting ended on Tuesday. But at the tail end of the interview, we asked Ralston for his thoughts on Trump’s Saturday call to Raffensperger. We also asked what his constituents were thinking. From the column:

“I don’t really know what the president expected to accomplish by calling the secretary, after he had tried 18 times, unsuccessfully, to get him to answer a call,” Ralston said. “Having said that, I’m not a big fan of surreptitiously recording phone calls, and, frankly, I think it’s a little disrespectful of the office, regardless of who is president.”

I asked what his constituents in Blue Ridge, an overwhelmingly red part of north Georgia, were telling him. “I’m beginning to hear more and more people, even there, say that it’s just time for it to be over. I think there is a fatigue factor setting in. And if it’s setting in there, I’ve got to believe it’s setting in elsewhere.”

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It’s also worth remembering that Republican incumbent David Perdue was forced into Tuesday’s runoff by Georgia’s requirement that statewide races be decided by a majority vote rather than a hefty plurality. We asked House Speaker David Ralston if GOP state lawmakers were interested in changing that system.

“I haven’t heard much about that,” Ralston said. But we’re betting he will -- and pretty quickly.

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Last night, according to his Twitter feed, state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, had dinner with Vice President Mike Pence -- a curious bit of culinary timing. But it does remind one that Raphael Warnock will need to run for re-election in 2022, when the Isakson term expires. And Republicans may be already making calculations about who should challenge him.

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Something good has finally comes out of Facebook. From the press release:

Following the Georgia runoff election, starting early January 6, 2021, we will no longer allow ads about the Georgia runoff elections on our platform in line with our existing nationwide social issues, electoral or political ads pause. Any ads about the Georgia runoff elections will be paused and advertisers will no longer be able to create new ads about social issues, elections, or politics.

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With Ossoff and Warnock poised to win, Chuck Schumer of New York is set to take over as the U.S. Senate’s first Jewish majority leader. This is what he had to say on Twitter when he woke up Wednesday morning: “Buckle up!”

Schumer also released a longer statement to the media. “It feels like a brand new day,” he wrote. “For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”

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Congressional Democrats are still debating whether to try to take action against President Donald Trump for his call to Brad Raffensperger, demanding that the Georgia secretary of state find him 11,780 votes and overturn the results of Nov. 3.

Impeachment isn’t likely. U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson’s resolution of censure now has more than 100 co-sponsors and was formally introduced on Monday. Among those signing on: U.S. Reps. David Scott, Carolyn Bourdeaux and Sanford Bishop of Georgia.

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Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor that supplies voting machines to Georgia and several other states, has been maligned by Trump loyalists since Nov. 3. It’s legal stance is moving from defense to offense. The company’s chief executive said he intends to sue former Trump attorney Sidney Powell over remarks he described defamatory.

There is a chance Dominion will also sue others, including President Donald Trump.

“We were originally quiet and we sat back as a company because our hope was that all of these claims would be filed in a process in court where procedure and evidence is important,” CEO and founder John Poulos told the Axios Re:Cap podcast. “And it’s become clear to us that there is absolutely no interest to reveal this evidence because we know it doesn’t exist. And there’s no effort to actually put it in front of a court proceeding so that these allegations and all of the evidence can follow a proper process and be litigated right to the end.”

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Entertainment mogul Tyler Perry, whose production studio now fills the former Fort McPherson complex in Atlanta, was forced to fly back to Georgia to vote after his absentee ballot never arrived in the mail.

“Is anyone else having this problem?” he wrote on Twitter on Monday. “I ordered my absentee ballot on December 2nd. I’m told it was mailed on the 4th. I still don’t have it!”

Stacey Abrams responded that he should vote in person, and Perry replied that he had already fired up the private jet.

More tidbits culled from celebrity Tweets, basketball star LeBron James said he is interested in taking the Atlanta Dream off Kelly Loeffler’s hands. “Think I’m gone put together an ownership group for The Dream,” he wrote late Tuesday. “Whose in?”

James included a photo of Dream players wearing “Vote Warnock” shirts during a protest of Loeffler over the summer after she criticized the Black Lives Matter organization.

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Freshmen members of Congress from Georgia are learning more about their committee assignments. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux will serve on the Small Business Committee and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams will serve on the Financial Services Committee.

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