Democrat Raphael Warnock has declared victory in a Georgia Senate runoff race challenging Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), which was later called in his favor by The Associated Press. Loeffler, though, said there’s still a “path to victory.”
Results in the second Senate runoff in the state between Republican candidate David Perdue and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff are undetermined.
As of 2:20 a.m. local time, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Warnock was ahead by more than 46,500 votes over Loeffler, or 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent. Loeffler has yet to concede the race as of early Wednesday.
Meanwhile, with 98 percent reporting, Ossoff was leading in a tight race against Perdue by more than 9,500 votes, or 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent. The close margin means the winner may not be clear until later Wednesday.
The Senate runoff elections were necessary because no candidates exceeded 50 percent of the votes in the November general election. The critical races will determine the party that controls the U.S. Senate. The races drew an estimated 4.5 million voters—which is a record for a runoff—following Monday visits by President Donald Trump and presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Warnock, a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, appeared to claimed victory in a live-streamed video in the early hours of Wednesday. At the time, The Associated Press had yet to call the race in his favor.
“So Georgia I am honored by the faith that you’ve shown in me and I promise you this: tonight I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election,” Warnock said in the video.
He said he had “proved that with hope, hard work, and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
He spoke just moments after Loeffler told her own supporters: “We’re going to win this election. We have a path to victory and we’re staying on it.”
No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate race in Georgia in 20 years.
Republicans need to win just one race to claim the majority and control of the Senate, while Democrats would need to win both races, and require Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to cast tie-breaking votes, if she takes office on Jan. 20. Republicans have up until now secured 50 Senate seats and Democrats have secured 48 Senate seats, which includes two independent senators who caucus with Democrats.
In Georgia’s Chatham County, a Democrat-leaning county, ballot workers were sent home Tuesday night and are expected to resume their work on Wednesday morning, to count some 3,000 to 4,000 absentee ballots that came in on Tuesday that are reportedly still with the registrar’s office on Tuesday night, reported local outlet WTOC.
Chatham County’s Board of Elections Chairman Tom Mahoney told the outlet that it is not the only county to continue ballot processing on the following day.
“I anticipate that those state-wide results are going to be very close,” Mahoney said, according to the outlet. “So if we’re talking about three or four thousand votes in Chatham County, I’m afraid that’s going to be significant in the state race. And I’m sure that we’re not going to be the only county that’s going to be counting a few thousand more votes tomorrow morning.”
Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting implementation systems manager, said in a statement on Twitter: “Chatham County didn’t just stop. They completed the counting of everything they have in. That includes Election Day, Advanced, & all of the absentees they had in. The last left will be the absentee by mail that came in today.”
In DeKalb County, more than 19,000 ballots “must be manually scanned in order to be tabulated and added to the total vote count” due to “technical issues,” the DeKalb County elections director said.
Late Tuesday, Sterling wrote on Twitter: “There is a large group of votes from DeKalb Co., the early in person votes that should be uploaded soon. That will be 171k+.”