Georgia’s Runoff Elections on January 5th, 2021, had a special significance as the results determined the Senate majority, and consequently, the extent of legislation President Joe Biden will pass. Georgia has empirically been a Republican state, with margins for Republican wins decreasing in recent years. This shift can be partly attributed to demographic changes and increased voter participation, especially from younger voters. In fact, in the presidential election, Biden, the democratic party’s nominee, won Georgia’s electoral votes by a narrow 0.2%. This made it increasingly difficult to predict the results of the runoff.
Another reason as to why Georgia’s Runoff was highly prominent, was the fact that both senate seats were open. One of Georgia’s Republican senators, Johnny Isakson retired in 2019 from his position due to Parkinson’s disease. Kelly Loeffler, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, had been designated to fill the position for the time being. The second seat was previously taken by David Perdue who ran for re-election at the culmination of his term. Since Georgia’s law expects a candidate to win over 50% of the vote to win the election, both the special election and regular election called for a runoff. Loeffler faced off in the special election’s runoff against Raphael Wornock, a Democratic church pastor. Perdue eventually opposed Jon Ossoff, a young Democrat, in a considerably more unexpected runoff.
With high stakes on the line, both Ossoff and Wornock secured the Senate positions, meaning that there would be a 50-50 divide between Republicans and Democrats within Senate. As stated in the constitution, in the event of an even split, the Vice-President, Kamala Harris, would cast the tie-breaking vote. A democratic majority in Senate would also identify Senator Chuck Schumer as the Majority Leader, giving Schumer the decisive ability to prioritize the legislation on the Senate’s schedule. Despite this win, to enact some of Biden’s more progressive plans, Democrats will still need to surpass the filibuster, which establishes a 60 vote minimum.
The runoff victories were not only triumphs for the Democratic party, but the selections were also groundbreaking in terms of representation. Wornock will be serving as Georgia’s first Black Senator and Ossoff as Georgia’s first Jewish Senator. Once sworn in, their positions in Senate will tip the scales in favor of the Democrats and will hopefully somewhat disentangle the path to change.