With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, both races in Georgia have now been declared wins for the Democrats.
The Associated Press and other national media affirmed Wednesday afternoon that Jon Ossoff had defeated incumbent Republican David Perdue in one of the runoff races, after having declared early in the morning that the Rev. Raphael Warnock had beaten another Republican incumbent, Kelly Loeffler.
The victories by Warnock and Ossoff give the Senate will have a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans (the Democrats’ numbers include two independents who caucus with them), and Kamala Harris, as vice president, will have the tie-breaking vote. This bodes well for pro-LGBTQ+ legislation, which would likely be blocked if the Senate kept a Republican majority. Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives.
The candidates competed in the runoff Tuesday because no one received a majority of the vote in either race in the November general election, as Georgia law requires. Perdue was at the end of his first term and was running for reelection. Loeffler was appointed to the Senate by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Johnny Isakson, who retired in December 2019 due to health problems, and had to run in a special election in 2020 to determine who’ll serve the last two years of Isakson’s term. Warnock will be the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, Ossoff the first Jewish one.
Both Warnock and Ossoff are LGBTQ+ allies. Warnock is pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the post once held by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He has condemned the use of religion to enable discrimination, and he has pledged to support the Equality Act and other LGBTQ+ rights measures. So has Ossoff, an investigative journalist and media executive who nearly won a seat in the U.S. House in a 2017 special election. Both are also advocates for other progressive causes, such as expanding access to health care, reforming the criminal justice system, and strengthening gun control.
Perdue has a string of zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which rates members of Congress on their positions on LGBTQ+ rights. But he has earned perfect ratings from anti-LGBTQ+ groups such as the Family Research Council Action and Family Policy Alliance. He has voted to confirm anti-LGBTQ+ federal judges nominated by Donald Trump, including Andrew Brasher, who has called same-sex marriage harmful to children. Brasher is now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Loeffler has not been in office long enough to be rated on HRC’s scorecard, but she already has amassed a homophobic and transphobic record. Because of her wealth, she pledged to donate her Senate salary to charity, and the beneficiaries have included an anti-LGBTQ+ adoption agency and antichoice crisis pregnancy centers. Also, in September, she introduced legislation aimed at preventing transgender girls and women from competing with cisgender females in school sports.
Loeffler was investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee last year because of stock trades she made after receiving a briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, raising the question of whether she acted on information that wasn’t available to the general public. Perdue’s trading also came under investigation, because of both the pandemic and possible conflicts of interest. Both have said the committee concluded there was no wrongdoing, but an examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “found the panel almost never finds fault in members it investigates,” the paper reports.
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