Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff has won his Senate run-off election, one of the two Democrats needed to ensure control of the US Senate, serving US President Donald Trump a stunning defeat in his last days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda.
The 33-year-old Ossoff defeated 71-year-old Republican David Perdue, who held the seat for the past six years and had the strong support of President Donald Trump.
Raphael Warnock (left) and Jon Ossoff (right) gesture toward a crowd during a campaign rally in Marietta, Georgia. Both men have won their Senate races.Credit:AP
The success of Ossoff and his fellow Democrat challenger Raphael Warnock is a symbol of a striking shift in Georgia's politics as the swelling number of diverse, college-educated voters flex their power in the heart of the Deep South.
This week's elections mark the formal end of the turbulent 2020 election season. The unusually high stakes transformed Georgia, once a solidly Republican state, into one of the nation's premier battlegrounds during the final days of Trump's presidency — and likely beyond.
"This campaign has been about health and jobs and justice for the people of this state – for all the people of this state," Ossoff said in a speech broadcast on social media Wednesday morning. "Whether you were for me, or against me, I'll be for you in the US Senate. I will serve all the people of the state."
Trump's false claims of voter fraud cast a dark shadow over the run-off elections, which were held only because no candidate hit the 50 per cent threshold in the general election. He attacked the state's election chief on the eve of the election and raised the prospect that some votes might not be counted even as votes were being cast Tuesday afternoon.
Republican state officials on the ground reported no significant problems.
However, Trump's claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election, while meritless, resonated with Republican voters in Georgia. About seven in 10 agreed with his false assertion that Biden was not the legitimately elected president, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3600 voters in the run-off elections.
Both contests tested whether the political coalition that fuelled Biden's November victory was an anti-Trump anomaly or part of a new electoral landscape. To win in Tuesday's elections – and in the future – Democrats needed strong African-American support.
Drawing on his popularity with Black voters, among other groups, Biden won Georgia's 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast in November.
In an emotional address early Wednesday, Warnock vowed to work for all Georgians whether they voted for him or not, citing his personal experience with the American dream. His mother, he said, used to pick “somebody else’s cotton” as a teenager.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” he said. “Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
Georgia’s other runoff election pitted Perdue, a 71-year-old former business executive who held his Senate seat until his term expired on Sunday, against Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist.
Ossoff will be the youngest person elected to the US Senate in 40 years.
The 33-year old will also have what is believed to be one of the closest personal connections to Australia of any member of Congress in American history.
Ossoff's mother, Heather Fenton, was born and raised in Sydney before moving to the US at the age of 23 and settling in the Atlanta area in Georgia.
The business graduate married Richard Ossoff, a Harvard graduate who runs a specialist legal and accounting publishing company in Atlanta. Fenton has held several senior management roles and co-founded a non-profit group aimed at helping elect more women to political office.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age understand that Jon Ossoff, the pair's only child, has travelled to Australia several times. He previously held Australian citizenship that has now lapsed.
While still at high school Ossoff, who was raised Jewish, interned for the late civil rights icon and Democratic congressman John Lewis before graduating from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington D.C.
He has spent most of his career as a filmmaker and helped make several documentaries about politics in Africa and terrorist group ISIS that aired on the BBC.
In 2017 he narrowly lost a closely watched congressional seat in Georgia but won pre-selection to be one of the Democrats' two Senate candidates in last November's election.
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