Ossoff speaking

Ossoff speaks to the crowd. U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff stopped by the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia on Nov. 13, 2020, as part of his tour around the state before the runoff election on Jan. 5, 2021. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

The energy in the 40 Watt parking lot was palpable as hundreds of people watched Jon Ossoff take the stage on the back of a pickup truck. 

“I love you guys,” he said as he began his speech about the upcoming runoff election. 

Ossoff is running in one of two of the state’s Senate race runoffs against Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue. The winners of the seats will determine whether the Senate has a Democratic or Republican majority. Ossoff acknowledged the national attention on the Senate races and on Georgia’s presidential race results.

Some major news networks have called the state for Democrat President-elect Joe Biden. Georgia hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since Bill Clinton in 1992. 

“Millions more could lose their jobs and their homes and their livelihoods,” Ossoff said, underscoring the importance of the Senate races. “We have to remember that this isn’t about partisan politics. This is about the human consequences of elections. This is about the lives that are on the line.”

The road to flipping Georgia blue was long, Ossoff said, and paved by civil rights activists like John Lewis and Stacey Abrams. Abrams, who ran for governor in 2018, founded two voter registration projects and registered hundreds of thousands of voters before the Nov. 3 general election. 

The crowd cheered as Ossoff talked about the importance of the race. He said Perdue worked in his own interest and he couldn’t be trusted in the seat. 

“Change has come to Georgia, change is coming to America and retirement is coming for Senator David Perdue,” Ossoff said to cheers from the crowd.

Ossoff said, if elected, he would focus on health care, the environment and equal justice under the law. He’d like to see Georgia invest in clean energy and infrastructure and pass a new Civil Rights Act, including voting right protections. 

A small group of protesters attempted to speak over Ossoff with a megaphone throughout the rally. Ossoff at one point acknowledged them, saying they were exercising their First Amendment rights as the crowd laughed. 

Kyle Patel, a senior at the University of Georgia, called the protesters annoying, but said the rally itself was great. Patel was happy to see Georgia vote Democratic, and said that grassroots approaches to politics needed to be embraced. 

The energy of the rally was refreshing to Bryan Walker and Sahana Basker. Basker went to an Ossoff rally in 2017, when he was running for representative, and said the energy Friday was much more urgent. 

“Just seeing the energy that everybody had, and that everybody was caring about what’s going on politically in the world, really gives me a lot more faith in the election that’s coming,” Walker, a freshman political science major, said. 

Ebony Upton came from UGA’s Gwinnett campus to hear Ossoff speak. 

“It’s really good to just campaign as hard as we can to make sure that we just flip the Senate blue,” she said. “What I believe in [and] what all my family believes in is Jon Ossoff, so I wanted to make sure I’m here to show my support.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the president Georgia voted for in 1992. Georgia last voted blue in 1992 for Bill Clinton. The Red & Black regrets this error and it has since been fixed.