ATLANTA — Georgians turned out in record numbers for runoff elections on Tuesday, casting more than 4 million votes. That high-water mark came weeks after the state surpassed 5 million votes, another record, in the Nov. 3 election.
Riding that wave of turnout, Democrats turned the state blue.
The Rev. Raphael Warnock was declared the winner early Wednesday in his Georgia runoff election with GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, becoming the first Black senator in the state’s history and only the 11th Black senator ever in the U.S.
“I am so honored by the faith that you have shown in me,” Warnock said late Tuesday night. “And I promise you this, I am going to the Senate to work for Georgia, all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election.”
Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former intern for the late civil rights titan Rep. John Lewis, is also on the cusp of taking his race against Republican Sen. David Perdue, a six-year incumbent.
On Wednesday morning, Ossoff suggested he had already won.
“It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate,” Ossoff said. “This campaign has been about health and jobs and justice for the people of this state — for all the people of this state. And they will be my guiding principles.”
Yahoo News talked to several voters in Fulton County, which Warnock won and Ossoff leads by a margin of 72.5 percent and 71.6 percent, respectively. They shared why it was important for them to vote in this year’s runoff elections.
“I feel like it’s an obligation,” Tobias Brown, 56, said, who cast his vote for Ossoff and Warnock at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center in Southwest Atlanta. “So many people died. … So I know how important voting is. That’s why I vote.”
Bernita Banks, long frustrated by politics, said she “didn’t want to vote,” but cast her ballot Tuesday for the Democratic ticket in Dunbar despite her misgivings.
“I feel like my vote counts at some point,” she said. “So I’m just trying to increase the numbers.”
Jason McClendon, who chose not to say who he voted for, expressed frustration that so much national money was donated in the state election. But he said he understood “it will make or break Congress.”
“I’m glad it’s over with, and we’re hoping we have a great start to a new year for our country,” said McClendon, who voted at a Buckhead elementary school. “I think we can all be friends no matter what side you’re on, and that would be a great start to our country — that it comes together instead of dividing and staying apart.”
Kerry O’Brien, who identifies as neither Democrat nor Republican, also expressed reluctant optimism for the future.
“I really wish we could become more united as a country,” she said. “I don’t know that that would happen, but I did vote for the Democratic candidates today.”
Cover thumbnail photo: Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Video edited by Amit Sharma @cinemamit
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