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Democrats won control of the U.S. Senate with victories in Georgia’s two runoff elections. Jon Ossoff defeated David Perdue (R), whose Senate term lapsed Sunday. And Raphael Warnock won his race against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

Here’s what to know:
  • Democrats’ success has abruptly shifted the outlook for Joe Biden’s presidency, giving him much stronger hopes of prevailing on ambitious legislation, sensitive nominations and possibly Supreme Court justice picks.
  • Ossoff and Warnock both lead their opponents by more than the 0.5 percentage-point threshold for a recount, powered to victory by record-breaking turnout among Black voters.
  • Their wins were overshadowed Wednesday by violence and a chaotic breakdown in the democratic process. A mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, where Congress was confirming Biden’s victory, and one woman was fatally shot.
  • Fulton County, Georgia’s largest, paused its vote counting on Wednesday evening amid concerns for officials’ security.
  • Ossoff and Warnock will be the first Democrats elected to the Senate from Georgia in 20 years. Here are four takeaways from the initial results.
  • Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide who has never held public office, will be the youngest newly elected Democratic senator since Joe Biden in 1973. Warnock, a pastor at the church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, will be the first African American Democratic senator from a former Confederate state.
3:29 a.m.
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Loeffler reverses course, says she will vote to confirm Biden’s electoral college win

Outgoing Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) reversed course on her planned objection to President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college win after the Senate on Wednesday evening resumed the process of affirming the results of the presidential race.

She cited the scene in Washington, as a mob of the president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

“When I arrived in Washington this morning, I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes,” Loeffler said. “However, the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider. And I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors.”

Loeffler received applause from colleagues after yielding the floor.

Gabriel Sterling, a fellow Republican and top elections official — as well as an outspoken critic of President Trump’s attacks on the voting process — shared his gratitude on Twitter.

“Thank you Senator Loeffler,” he wrote. “You have done the right thing.”

Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.

2:56 a.m.
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On a dark day, Stacey Abrams finds hope in historic victories

Democrats’ wins in Georgia were overshadowed Wednesday by violence, as a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and disrupted a normally routine function of democracy.

But Stacey Abrams, widely credited with paving the way for Georgia’s blue shift, found reason for hope — in the historic projected Senate victories of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, which came as Kamala D. Harris is set to break ground as vice president.

“While today’s terrible display of terror and meanness shakes us, let’s remember: @ossoff, Jewish son of an immigrant & @ReverendWarnock, first Black Senator from Georgia, will join a Catholic POTUS & the first woman, Black + Indian VP in our nation’s capital,” tweeted Abrams, who narrowly lost Georgia’s race for governor in 2018 and has worked to transform the state’s political landscape with grass-roots organizing. “God bless America.”

Abrams has made history herself as the first Black woman to win a major-party gubernatorial nomination.

Ossoff and Warnock shared their dismay at the day’s chaos.

On Twitter, Ossoff said bemoaned the “insurrectionist attack … incited by Trump’s poisonous lies & flagrant assault on our Constitution.”

“The GOP must discard and disavow Trump once and for all, end its attacks on the electoral process, & commit fully to the peaceful transfer of power,” he wrote.

But Warnock, too, struck a note of hope. He tweeted an homage to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who once preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock is a pastor.

“In this moment of unrest, violence and anger, we must remember the words of Dr. King, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that,’ ” Warnock said. “ ‘Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.’ Let each of us try to be a light to see our country out of this dark moment.”

2:14 a.m.
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Georgia’s largest county pauses its vote counting amid concerns for officials’ safety

ATLANTA — Fulton County paused its vote counting on Wednesday evening amid concerns for officials’ security after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and protesters gathered outside the Georgia Capitol.

Elections staff members were in the middle of adjudicating the county’s last batch of ballots, one of the final phases of the tally, when they decided to postpone.

“Out of an abundance of caution we have ceased all ballot processing and tabulation for the remainder of the day,” said, Regina Waller, a Fulton County spokeswoman. “We have also closed all of our offices in downtown Atlanta.”

Waller did not say when the count would resume.

The elections department’s downtown headquarters sits just blocks from the Georgia Capitol, where Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff were escorted from their offices out of concern for their safety.

Fulton County spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that weeks’ worth of attacks from President Trump and violent threats from his supporters pushed them to pause. Trump has singled out Fulton repeatedly and did so numerous times when he called Raffensperger last weekend to pressure him to overturn the state’s election results.

“We have a strong basis for concern based on security threats over recent weeks as well as awareness that there are people, including the president himself, who have singled out Fulton County as a cause for the outcome of the presidential election,” Corbitt said.

Elections Director Richard Barron has said that in the run-up to Election Day, workers were harassed by phone and on social media, where people repeatedly hurled racial slurs at them.

And last week, Barron said, a man in Tennessee called the elections office and threatened to detonate a bomb at one of Fulton County’s polling sites.

“The person said the Nashville bombing was a practice run for what we’d see today at one of our polling places,” Barron said.

The department forwarded the threat to the FBI, which Barron said searched the man’s home but did not make an arrest. The FBI declined to comment.

1:43 a.m.
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Warnock’s win is an answer to prayers of many Black Georgians

In early September 1868, two months after Georgia’s readmission to the Union, its state legislature expelled almost 30 of its newly elected Black members instead of seating them. Not long afterward, one of the banished members, a man named Philip Joiner, led several hundred Black people and a few White people on a 25-mile march from Albany to Camilla for a political rally. Along the way hundreds of armed White people, led by a local sheriff, opened fire on the parade, killing about a dozen marchers. Joiner and others fled into the woods.

On a January evening 152 years later and about 100 miles to the northwest, the Rev. Ralph Huling retreated to his “man cave” — Atlanta Falcons rug, exercise equipment, putting green — and turned on his television to see whether Georgia would elect its first Black senator.

It was a culminating moment not just in Georgia’s history but for Huling his fellow ministers and congregants of Black churches in Georgia. During the campaign Huling, senior pastor of St. James Missionary Baptist, in Columbus, had invited the Democratic candidate, the Rev. Raphael Warnock — a fellow Black minister, of Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta — to speak at his church. He had been on the phone all of Election Day, organizing transportation for voters and firing up his members to get out and vote.

Now, there was nothing left to do but wait and watch. And pray.

12:40 a.m.
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Results boost outlook for Biden’s presidency

Democrats’ success in two Senate races in Georgia has abruptly shifted the outlook for Biden’s presidency, giving him much stronger hopes of prevailing on ambitious legislation, sensitive nominations and possibly Supreme Court justice picks.

But while liberals cheered a new vision of what may be possible in the first two years of Biden’s presidency, the razor-thin Senate margin made it clear Biden’s options would still be severely limited, raising the risk that the new landscape would create expectations and pressure that Biden cannot meet.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s takeover of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob vividly illustrated the ongoing rage among many of the president’s supporters, raising questions about whether Congress can return to a semblance of normalcy after an event that Biden said “borders on sedition.”

12:14 a.m.
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Georgia leaders denounce storming of Capitol and violent rhetoric

Republican leaders in Georgia on Wednesday denounced Trump supporters’ storming of the U.S. Capitol — as well as violent rhetoric and those in power who have promoted baseless claims of election fraud.

“Today is an incredibly sobering reminder of how delicate our democracy truly is,” Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) said at a news conference. “It is also a reminder of how dangerous it is when people in power act as if they are more important than that democracy.”

Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia, was more blunt. Sterling warned last month that Trump was “inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence” and that “someone is going to get killed.”

“This is what the words and actions of President Trump have yielded,” Sterling tweeted Wednesday above a photo from the U.S. Capitol, where one woman was fatally shot.

Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said the day’s stunning descent into violent chaos has been “un-American” and “a disgrace.” Kemp also criticized Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and a proponent of his election fraud claims, who has been unsuccessfully trying to get Trump’s loss overturned in court.

At a rally Wednesday near the Capitol, Giuliani turned to violent language not long before a mob breached the building, disrupting the tallying of electoral votes certifying Joe Biden’s win.

“If we’re wrong, we will be made fools of,” Giuliani had said. “But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let’s have trial by combat.”

“Rudy Giuliani saying ‘trial by combat’ is simply outrageous, and there is no place for that in our nation,” Kemp said.

With small protests flaring in Georgia, the governor said he would extend the activation of the state’s National Guard. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), the target of repeated threats for his role in the 2020 election, was evacuated from his offices Wednesday amid demonstrations.

10:20 p.m.
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Democrats take control of Senate as Jon Ossoff defeats David Perdue

Edison Research projects that Democrat Jon Ossoff will defeat Republican David Perdue in Georgia, cementing the state’s historic blue shift and giving Democrats control of the Senate — paving the way for their legislative agenda in the first years of President-elect Joe Biden’s term.

Perdue, a Republican who was first elected in 2014, faced Ossoff in a fierce, expensive campaign overshadowed by President Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. The two had been forced into a runoff after neither candidate got 50 percent of the vote in November.

Ossoff’s victory, along with that of Democrat Raphael Warnock, mark a turning point in a Republican bastion where Biden also prevailed, in the culmination of years of political organizing. Democrats turned out in force for the hugely consequential race amid concerns that the president’s attacks on election integrity could discourage Republicans.

Some members of the GOP blame President Trump for the Democratic sweep that will reshape national politics.

“You need to have a unified team with a unified message looking to the future,” Gabriel Sterling, a top state election official and Republican, said earlier Wednesday during a news conference. He faulted Trump for attacking members of his own party over the voting process, instead of focusing on Warnock and Ossoff.

With a split Senate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D) will cast the deciding vote.

Ossoff leads Perdue by more than 24,800 votes, capturing 50.3 percent of the vote to Perdue’s 49.7 percent. Ossoff’s margin is over the recount threshold, and Edison predicted his margin will continue to grow once the remaining votes are counted.

Warnock leads his opponent Kelly Loeffler (R) by 1.4 percentage points, also above the 0.5 percentage-point threshold for a recount.

Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide who has never held public office, will be the youngest newly elected Democratic senator since Joe Biden in 1973. He declared victory earlier, thanking Georgia voters “for the confidence and trust that you have placed in me.”

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

8:16 p.m.
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Young, Black and Hispanic voters helped Democrats in Georgia

Three key groups shifted toward Democrats in Georgia, helping push Warnock to victory and Ossoff to the lead in his race that’s still too close to call.

Preliminary exit poll results from Edison Research show younger voters, Hispanic voters and Black voters — especially male Black voters — all supported the Democratic Senate candidates in January by a wider margin than they did in November.

Even though some of these groups made up smaller shares of voters in the state than in the fall, the concentration of support boosted Democratic leads in the state.

  • Voters under 30 years old supported Democratic Senate candidates by a much wider margin than in November: While young voters made up a smaller share of Georgia’s voters in January, preliminary exit polls conducted by Edison Research found about two-thirds of them supported the two Democratic Senate candidates, up from 54 percent who supported Ossoff in November. Democratic candidates also grew their support among voters ages 30 to 44, from 53 percent in November to about 6 in 10 now. Those shifts helped offset Republicans’ strength among seniors, who made up a larger share of the runoff electorate than in November and favored the Republican candidates by more than 20 points.
  • Hispanic voters’ support for Democratic candidates grew from November: Hispanic voters made up a small share of voters in the state — about 5 percent — but exit polling found that more than 6 in 10 Hispanic voters supported each Democratic candidate for Senate, up from 52 percent who supported Ossoff in November’s election. The Democrats’ standing is closer to Biden’s 62 percent support in the presidential race among Latinos, helping fuel his narrow victory in the state.
  • Black voters, especially Black men, boosted Democrats’ margins: Overall, Black voters accounted for about 3 in 10 votes in the state, similar to November. And more than 9 in 10 Black voters overall supported both Warnock and Ossoff in the runoff election, inching up from 87 percent who backed Ossoff in November. The shift among Black voters concentrated among Black men: About 9 in 10 Black men supported Ossoff and Warnock — up from just over 8 in 10 who supported Ossoff in November. More than 9 in 10 Black women backed both Warnock and Ossoff in the runoff, their support inching up from the general election.
  • Democrats held their own in turnout, despite big drops in turnout in past Georgia runoff elections: Since 1992, Georgia has had eight statewide runoff elections between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans won seven of them. In each, turnout decreased significantly from the general election, and in all but one, Republicans expanded their vote margin — but Tuesday’s races did not follow that pattern. According to early exit polls, about 36 percent of voters in the runoff election identified as Democrats, similar to 34 percent in November. The share of self-identified Republicans was 39 percent in the runoff, also similar to 38 percent in the general election. That stability helped Warnock win his election and helped Ossoff amass a narrow advantage in current vote tallies, even though Ossoff trailed Perdue in the November election by 1.8 percentage points.
7:44 p.m.
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Georgia election official says he believes Ossoff will win

As counting remained underway in Georgia, a top state election official said he believed Ossoff had probably won his Senate race, accusing Trump of depressing Republican turnout with baseless claims of widespread election fraud.

“You need to have a unified team with a unified message looking to the future,” Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, said during a news conference. “And somebody pointed out … if you look over the last two months, the president of the United States spent more time attacking Governor Kemp and Secretary Raffensperger than he did Raphael Warnock and Senator-to-be, probably, Ossoff.”

Asked where the blame lay for the GOP results, he responded: “President Donald J. Trump.”

Ossoff is likely to avoid the margin — 0.5 percentage points — that would trigger a recount, he added.

Sterling, who has repeatedly decried the president’s attacks on election integrity, said there had been no evidence of irregularities in the runoffs.

“The biggest thing we’ve seen is from the president’s fertile mind of finding fraud where none exists,” he said.

7:16 p.m.
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Obama congratulates Warnock, praises Abrams’s ‘visionary’ leadership

Former president Barack Obama congratulated Warnock on his victory Wednesday afternoon, saying his win was a testament to grass-roots organizing and racial progress in the United States.

“My friend John Lewis is surely smiling down on his beloved Georgia this morning,” Obama said in a statement, referencing the Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who died at 80 in July.

Obama said Democratic activist Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, deserved credit for helping Warnock prevail in the state. Her “resilient, visionary leadership” helped Biden win Georgia in November as well, Obama said.

“Georgia’s first Black senator will make the chamber more reflective of our country as a whole and open the door for a Congress that can forego gridlock for gridlock’s sake to focus instead on the many crises facing our nation,” he said.

6:45 p.m.
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Analysis: What happened in Georgia

One of the more momentous days in American history arrived Wednesday, with Congress prepared to formalize Biden’s victory, over Republican opposition, and Trump supporters in the streets of Washington ready to vent their own frustrations.

Farther south, another significant shift occurred: Warnock (D) ousted Loeffler (R) in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections, with Ossoff (D) on the verge of doing the same to Perdue (R), whose Senate term expired Sunday. Beyond the history involved — Georgia swinging back to blue, the rare election of a Black man to the Senate — the political implications of the potential twin wins is significant. Should Ossoff prevail, Democrats would control a unified government.

So how did it happen?

We can get some sense by looking at the Ossoff-Perdue contest specifically. In November, Warnock and Loeffler were the top two vote-getters in a crowded field, meaning that both had relatively low percentages of support in many counties. The Ossoff-Perdue contests provide a more comparable baseline.

6:32 p.m.
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Schumer promises another round of stimulus checks if Ossoff wins

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer — who is poised to become majority leader should Ossoff maintain his lead over Perdue — said Wednesday that another round of stimulus checks are “one of the first things we want to do” if Democrats effectively take the majority.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) cast it as a matter of making good on promises made by Ossoff and Warnock, who defeated Loeffler on Tuesday: “They campaigned on them.”

Schumer said more broadly that a Democratic Senate majority stands ready to act on matters that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans have blocked over the past two years.

“For too long, much-needed help has been stalled or diluted by a Republican-led Senate and President Trump,” he said. “That will change with a Democratic Senate, Democratic House and a Democratic president.”

Schumer said he had spoken to President-elect Joe Biden and “pledged to him that as majority leader, President Biden & Vice President-elect [Kamala D. Harris] will have a partner in me and my caucus, who is ready, willing and able to help achieve a forward-looking agenda and deliver bold change to the American people.”

Should Ossoff be certified the winner, Democrats would have 50 seats, with Harris’s tie-breaking vote making their majority. Under the last 50-50 Senate, seated in 2001, Republicans and Democrats negotiated a power-sharing arrangement that gave the two parties equal numbers of seats on committees.

Schumer was noncommittal on how a 50-50 Senate would work this time around: “I look forward to sitting down with Leader McConnell. We have a lot of things to discuss.”

4:59 p.m.
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Biden congratulates Warnock, says he’s hopeful Ossoff will be victorious

Biden congratulated Warnock on his win late Wednesday morning and said he is “hopeful” that Ossoff will also be victorious once the count is completed.

While other top Democratic officials have claimed wins in both races, the president-elect was more cautious as votes continue to be tallied. Warnock has been projected the winner in his race, while Ossoff maintained a narrow lead in the other contest.

“It looks like we will emerge from yesterday’s election with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, and of course I’m pleased that we will be able to work with Speaker Pelosi and a Majority Leader Schumer,” Biden said in a statement. “But I’m also just as determined today as I was yesterday to try to work with people in both parties — at the federal, state, and local levels — to get big things done for our nation. ”

He praised the “twin powers of Georgia,” voting rights organizer Stacey Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, both Democrats, crediting them with laying the groundwork to boost turnout and protect the vote. He also thanked election officials and poll workers “who yet again in a pandemic, with historic turnout, and under immense political pressure, upheld their duty to hold a free and fair election.”

“After the past four years, after the election, and after today’s election certification proceedings on the Hill, it’s time to turn the page,” Biden wrote. “The American people demand action and they want unity. I am more optimistic than I ever have been that we can deliver both.”

4:09 p.m.
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Trump tries to sow doubt about results, drawing pushback from Ga. election official

In a series of Twitter posts Wednesday, Trump tried to stir doubt about the validity of the runoff results, prompting pushback from a top Georgia election official.

“They just happened to find 50,000 ballots late last night. The USA is embarrassed by fools,” Trump tweeted, one of multiple messages blasting the Georgia vote. “Our Election Process is worse than that of third world countries!”

Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who serves as voting systems manager for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and who last month blamed Trump and fellow members of the GOP for threats directed at elections officials, responded in a tweet of his own.

“No Mr. President, there weren’t ‘found’ ballots,” he wrote. “We have known the number of advanced votes since this weekend. We saw record Election Day turnout. As of Monday 970,000 absentees had been accepted. 31k more were added in yesterday’s totals. That leaves 60k that came in yesterday.”

Trump continued his baseless attacks on the election, writing in a subsequent tweet that “these scoundrels are only toying” with the Perdue vote.

“They’ve got as many ballots as are necessary,” he added. “Rigged Election!”

Twitter labeled his assertions as “disputed.”