Written by: Natalie C.
Ever since the conclusion of one of the most monumental presidential elections in U.S. history, all
anyone has talked about isthe 2021 Georgia Runoffs and their importance. However,the barrage of
news Left and Right (see what I did there?) has made it difficult to follow this key Senate race, leading
many – even weeks after this race’s conclusion –to ask what exactly is a runoff, what made this year’s
runoffs so special, who were the candidates and what was the outcome of this oh-soessential election?
Look no further because I’ll be answering these questions (and more!) throughout this rundown on the
2021 Georgia Runoffs – let’s go!
What is a runoff?
According to Ballotpedia, a runoff election is “a second election held to determine a winner when no
candidate in the first election met the required threshold for victory” (“Runoff Election”).Georgia
happens to be one of only two states to require a runoff election after a general election in which no
candidate receives a majority of the vote as well as a state whose law requires that candidates receive at
least 50% of the vote in order to be declared a winner, this latter law, according to the New York
Times, being “a vestige of segregation-era policies designed to prevent Black candidates from sneaking
through a crowded field of white opponents” (Epstein et al.).
Because the candidates of neither Georgia’s regular senate election, nor its special senate election
surpassed this 50% threshold in November of 2020, Georgia held two runoff elections on January 5th of
2021 in order to determine the winners.
Why was this year’s Georgia runoffs so important?
The main reason this year’s Georgia runoffs had such a huge spotlight on them is that they had the
power to decide which political party would have control of the U.S. Senate and, consequentially, how
much (or how little) President Biden would be able to achieve in his first two years in office. As a result,
these elections turned out to be the two most expensive Senate races in American history, with almost
$500 million being spent solely on advertising for both sides (for context, only one Senate race before
2020 had ever spent just over $200 million) (Epstein et al.).
Who were the candidates?
The regular senate election pitted 71-year-old Republican David Perdue –a former businessman who
was running for reelection after his six-year term in office –and 33-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff – a
former media production company CEO who had never before served in public office –against one
another. While Perdue focused his campaign on matters of the economy and national
defense, Ossoff emphasized his support for matters such as universal healthcare, environmental
protections and criminal justice reform.
Meanwhile, the special senate election was a race between 50-year-old Republican Kelly Loeffler – a
former businesswoman who never won an election due to having been appointed by Georgia’s governor
after a previous Republican senator retired at the end of 2019 – and 51-year-old Democrat Raphael
Warnock – a pastor of a well-known Black church in Atlanta who, despite never having run for public
office, was “politically involved as an advocate for voting rights” (Epstein et al.). While Loeffler centered
her campaign on economic matters and opposing gun control reform, Warnock prioritized his support
for the agricultural industry, for environmental justice, and for opposition to mass incarceration.
What happened on Election Day?
On January 5th, a whopping 3 million Georgians had already voted –either through absentee ballots or
early in-person voting – which is more votes than any Georgia Senate runoff election in American history,
with the previous record-holder being a race in 2008 with just 2.1 million voters. In addition, there was
an overall high turnout amongst Democratic voters, particularly Black voters (whose votes made up over
30% of the enormous early turnout).
Needless to say, it is this historic voter turnout and enthusiasm that decided the winners of this highly anticipated race.
Who won and what does this mean?
Ossoff won with a 1.2-point (over a 50,000 vote) lead against Perdue, becoming Georgia’s first Jewish
senator. Similarly, Warnock won over Loeffler with a 2-point (over a 90,000 vote) lead, making history as
Georgia’s “first Black senator and the first Black Democratic senator from the South” (Wise).
The duel Democrat wins made New York Democrat Senator Charles E. Schumer the new Majority Leader
of the U.S. Senate. As a result, President Biden will have an easier time –at least for the next couple of
years – passing legislation that he, his administration and his voters favor, including –but certainly not
limited to – higher stimulus checks, passing of the Equality Act and partial forgiveness of student loan
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