top of page

A Flipped Senate

Last week was very critical in determining the future of the United States Senate. Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock created waves within the political world as they became the first Democrats elected to the Senate from Georgia in nearly two decades (Enten). The Senate is a part of the Legislative branch, as established in Article I of the Constitution. The Senate is composed of 100 Senators- 2 from each state- who are elected to 6 year terms by popular vote by the people of each state (Legislative).


A correlation between Senate and presidential voting was especially prevalent during this last election cycle, as every state won by Mr. Trump was also won by the Republican candidate. The same sentiment went for the Democrats, as every state won by Biden (minus Maine) was also won by the Democratic candidate (Enten). Joe Biden was also the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.


The two runoff elections in Georgia were held on January 5, 2021. These were held because no candidate had received a clear majority of votes in the regularly scheduled election nor the special election that took place on November 3, 2020. Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in the special election that was held to fulfill the rest of retired Senator Johnny Isakson’s term. Jon Ossoff (D) defeated David Perdue (R) in the regular runoff election.


This win was significant, because it meant that after January 20, Democrats will have attained a Senate majority of 50-50, with Vice President elect Kamala Harris serving to break any ties. Prior to this election, a trifecta was held within the state of Georgia, where Republican’s controlled the governor’s office along with both chambers of the state (United). The stakes for this election were also very high for the Democratic party, because if one or both of the Senate seats had remained Republican, Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, would have maintained his power and ability to exercise veto power on the priorities of the new administration. This would have meant that Joe Biden would have begun his presidency without control over all three branches of the government- the first president to do so since George H.W. Bush (Demsas).


Both parties took on very different strategies for framing this race, as Republicans framed their battle for Senate control as a fight against Socialism in America. Steve Guest, rapid response director at the Republican National Committee stated, “Chuck Schumer threatened America, “Now we take Georgia, then we change the world.” That sentiment should send chills down the spine of every American who doesn’t want to defund the police, have their taxes hiked, their country sold out to China, the Supreme Court packed, the Green New Deal enacted, and a government takeover of health care implemented. Because those things are exactly what Democrats would do if Chuck Schumer got his wish.” The Democrats used this race to fight to give the Biden administration a Democratic senate majority to make headway in things such as healthcare and pandemic recovery. “There's so much at stake with who controls the Senate ... who's going to be fighting for individuals for healthcare, to reduce prescription drug costs, to address a pandemic that is having just an incredible impact on our economy. ... It's the Democrats working with a Biden administration that are going to do that,” said by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (United).


A large contributor to the happening of this flipped Senate can be credited to minority voters in Georgia. Back in November, Republican candidates in Georgia won more votes for the Senate than the Democrats, however in the runoff race on January 5, a much different result was produced. After a higher turnout among Democrats- most notably among Black Georgians, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were able to succeed. This rise in Democratic turnout allowed the pair to subdue their disadvantages with voters who assisted in Joe Biden’s victory, but voted Republican down-ballot. In precincts carried by Biden in November, turnout for this runoff election reached an outstanding 92% of 2020 general election levels, however, Republican turnout for this runoff was rather strong as well with a turnout of 88% of general election levels in precincts carried by Mr.Trump. The shift in Democratic turnout was much more noticeable in part because of the relatively weak turnout of Black voters in November’s election, when the black share of Georgia’s electorate fell to its lowest levels since 2006. The largest democratic gains were produced in the predominantly Black communities south of Atlanta and along the region dubbed the “Black Belt”- a region known for its fertile soil and the slaves who tilled it. This growth was in large part a result of a voter drive led by former 2018 governor candidate Stacey Abrams (Enten).


Even before the runoff elections, on many occasions in the past, the historically red state of Georgia had been oh-so-close to permeating blue energy with a handful of Democratic almost-wins. Jon Ossoff almost secured a House Seat in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in 2017, but after a runoff election, he lost to Republican candidate Karen Handel. In 2018, Stacey Abrams also became close to becoming governor, but lost to current governor Brian Kemp (Gontcharova). In an interview with the Washington Post, a Democratic strategist working on the Senate races in Georgia said, “There is a demographic change happening in Georgia that is only accelerating every year... The state is diversifying and urbanizing at an incredible clip” (Phillips).


When students were asked about their thoughts on this flipped senate, they had the following things to say: Senior Bruce Marlatt shared, “Not surprising at all. When you tell your followers that elections can’t be trusted, surprise, surprise they don’t believe elections are worth their time” (Bruce Marlatt, Junior).


Junior Holden Vigna says, “I’m not really surprised. Democrats statistically have better shots when there’s a higher turnout, and especially higher minority turnout. Georgia could’ve turned blue elections ago, they just need the votes” (Holden Vigna, Junior).


The Georgia Senate runoff election had significant implications for the future of not only the state of Georgia, but the next four years under the new presidential administration.






Sources Cited

Cohn, Nate, and Charlie Smart. “Why Warnock and Ossoff Won in Georgia.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Jan. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/01/07/upshot/warnock-ossoff-georgia-victories.html?action=click&module=ELEX_results&pgtype=Interactive®ion=ReporterUpdates.

Demsas, Jerusalem. “Georgia Senate Runoffs: The Final Battles for Control of the US Senate.” Vox, Vox, 30 Nov. 2020, www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/21726781/georgia-senate-runoffs-senate-loeffler-perdue-warnock-ossoff-biden-trump-kemp.

Enten, Harry. “Analysis: Lessons Learned from the Democratic Wins in Georgia.” CNN, Cable News Network, 9 Jan. 2021, www.cnn.com/2021/01/09/politics/georgia-election-lessons-learned/index.html.

Fowler, Stephen. “After Attacks On Election Integrity, Georgia Officials Work To Rebuild Confidence.” NPR, NPR, 14 Jan. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/01/14/956521245/after-attacks-on-election-integrity-georgia-officials-work-to-rebuild-confidence.

Gontcharova, Natalie. “‘Georgia Is The Future’: Meet The Women Working To Flip The Senate Blue.” Meet The Women Working To Flip Senate Blue In Georgia, www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/12/10243322/georgia-runoff-senate-races-women-organizers.

“The Legislative Branch.” The White House, The United States Government, www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/the-legislative-branch/.

Phillips, Amber. “What You Need to Know about the Georgia Senate Runoff Elections.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 30 Dec. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2020/georgia-senate-runoff-guide/.

“United States Senate Runoff Elections in Georgia (January 5, 2021).” Ballotpedia, ballotpedia.org/United_States_Senate_runoff_elections_in_Georgia_(January_5,_2021).






8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page