Jan. 5 marked Georgia’s two U.S. Senate runoffs between Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and their respective Republican opponents, Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The Associated Press called both Ossoff and Warnock as the winners of these elections, which gives the Democratic Party control of the Senate.
Ossoff and Warnock’s victories signify that there will be 50 Democratic senators and 50 Republican senators, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. This tie-breaker gives the Democratic Party an advantage on passing legislation.
These two elections also point to victories in the Jewish and Black communities — Ossoff will serve as the first Jewish senator in the state of Georgia, and Warnock will be the first Black senator in the state’s history.
Sophomore human development and family sciences major Mira Ratchev, a member of Young Democrats of UGA, said she felt both excited and optimistic about having more senators from different backgrounds in office.
“I hope that this starts, that this creates a path for more diverse and progressive leaders to be elected in Georgia,” Ratchev said.
Young Democrats of UGA President Ramin Zareian described feeling surprised upon seeing Ossoff and Warnock’s victories. While they were aware that Georgia was beginning to lean blue, they also acknowledged that runoffs tend to yield lower voter turnout compared to presidential elections.
“There were a lot of things that surprised me and made me glad that we’re not just doomed to have Republicans win in Georgia. That’s no longer an inevitability,” Zareian said.
Others were less surprised about Ossoff and Warnock’s wins based on the format of their campaigns.
Jantz Womack, a junior political science and public relations major and former membership director of College Republicans at UGA, believes the money and attention that went into their campaigns contributed to their wins.
“I think that [Warnock and Ossoff], alongside Stacey Abrams, were able to mobilize young voters and mobilize voters particularly in Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties,” Womack said.
Ratchev said she felt that Ossoff and Warnock’s appeal to Generation Z and millennial voters through social media apps such as TikTok helped them win the election. Ossoff has been particularly active on TikTok to appeal to younger voters, combining memes with the key points of his agenda.
Womack expressed concerns that with both Ossoff and Warnock in office, the representation and healthcare of rural voters in Georgia would be overlooked.
“As a rural Georgian, it is somewhat concerning to me that both of our Senate candidates are now from metro Atlanta,” Womack said. “And the reason why is, what about the other… registered voters across the state? You know, and how do they plan to represent those voters? And I think that is something that will come with time.”
Despite his concerns, Womack still sees Loeffler and Perdue’s losses as a call for the Republican Party to work twice as hard toward winning the upcoming governor's race and flipping Warnock’s Senate seat back to red in the next two years.
“I think the Republican Party needs to take a step back and figure out how to best deliver the message of a freer, more prosperous America to suburban Georgians,” Womack said.
Zareian, despite being pleased about more Democratic seats in the Senate, was still worried that Ossoff and Warnock are not bold enough in their stances.
“You know, relatively, [Ossoff and Warnock] are at least better, but I prefer candidates who have more bold policy positions, like supporting Medicare for All or supporting the Green New Deal,” Zareian said.
Ossoff and Warnock’s victories also confirm Democratic control in the senate, house, and presidency for the first time since 2011. Womack expressed both worries and hope regarding this control.
“I just hope that the Democrats, you know, don't use this as a time to just ram through any type of legislation possible,” Womack said. “The Biden administration, or the Biden campaign, rather, really focused on attempting to reach across the aisle. They really tried to paint Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the group that was going to bring civility back to the White House, and I hope that they do that in both rhetoric and legislation.”