Georgia Senate vote: Warnock beats Loeffler as Democrats close in on Senate control

Democrat challenger Raphael Warnock has beaten incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler in one of the two Georgia run-off elections, NBC News and the Associated Press have projected.

In the second race, Democrat Jon Ossoff has also taken a narrow lead over Republican David Perdue, with 98 per cent of the vote counted.

Rev. Warnock’s victory is the first time a Democrat has won a Senate race in Georgia in 20 years and gives the Democrats the chance to regain control of the Senate for at least the first two years of the Biden presidency. If Mr Ossoff holds on to his lead, that would mean the Senate is split 50-50, with Vice-President elect Kamala Harris holding the deciding vote.

An exit poll of more than 5,200 voters, taken on election day and during early voting, found that half had voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election, and half for Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence will not interfere in the result of the US election, his advisers said, despite growing pressure from President Trump to help overturn his defeat. Mr Trump has asked the Vice President to block Congress’s certification of the November election results in an ongoing attempt to stay in power, after dozens of lawsuits by his campaign challenging election results had failed in US courts.

Follow the latest updates below.

07:38 AM

Perdue campaign says they will ensure ‘all legal ballots’ are counted

The campaign for Republican David Perdue, who currently narrowly trails Democrat Jon Ossoff, has released a statement saying they believe “Senator Perdue will be victorious”.

Using language that echoes that used by Donald Trump in the wake of his defeat to Joe Biden, the campaign said: “We will mobilise every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted.”

“We believe in the end, Senator Perdue will be victorious.”

With 98 per cent of the vote counted, Sen. Perdue currently trails Mr Ossoff by 9,527 votes.

07:28 AM

Stocks fall as investors brace for possible ‘blue sweep’ in Georgia

Global stock prices slipped and bond yields rose on Wednesday as investors braced for the prospect that Democrats could win both seats at stake in a U.S. Senate run-off election in Georgia, handing them control of the chamber.

Along with their narrow majority in the House of Representatives, a ‘blue sweep’ of Congress could usher in larger fiscal stimulus and pave the way for President-elect Joe Biden to push through greater corporate regulation and higher taxes.

Broadcaster NBC called one of the races for Democrat Raphael Warnock, unseating incumbent Kelly Loeffler, while Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff held a slim lead over Republican David Perdue in the other with 98% of votes counted.

“With Biden proposing to reverse President Donald Trump’s tax cut, increase the minimum wage, and strengthen oversight on various industries, some might argue that his agenda is not particularly market-friendly,” said Vasu Menon, investment strategy executive director at OCBC Bank in Singapore.

Futures for the S&P 500 fell 0.8%, while Nasdaq futures shed 1.6% on fears Democrats could pursue tighter regulations on big tech firms.

07:20 AM

Raphael Warnock gives victory address

Rev. Raphael Warnock, the first Democrat to win a Georgia Senate race in 20 years, spoke to voters via MSNBC this morning, saying “I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia. No matter who you cast your vote for in this election … all of us have a choice to make: will we continue to divide, distract, and dishonor one another, or will we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?”

07:06 AM

Democratic challenger Ossoff takes lead

Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff has taken a lead of about 3,500 votes in his close race against Republican US Senator David Perdue in Georgia, according to Edison Research.

Both candidates have 50.0 per cent of the vote, but Ossoff has edged ahead of Perdue 2,195,441 to 2,191,881 with 98 per cent of the expected vote counted, according to Edison.

07:03 AM

NBC projects Warnock winner of Senate race

The NBC television network on Wednesday projected Democrat Raphael Warnock the winner of his U.S. Senate runoff election against Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler.

With 98% of the vote in, Warnock led Loeffler 50.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent, according to Edison Research.

Warnock, a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King once preached, would become Georgia’s first Black senator if final election results confirmed his victory.

06:46 AM

Wait for winners to be declared in record breaking run-off

The close margins in the race means the winners might not be clear until at least Wednesday morning in the US.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said election officials would take a break overnight but resume counting on Wednesday morning. “Hopefully by noon we’ll have a better idea where we are,” he said on CNN.

Most of the votes remaining to be counted were in counties Joe Biden won in November, with roughly 30,000 to go in DeKalb and Newton counties near Atlanta, according to Edison Research estimates.

The critical races drew an estimated 4.5 million voters – a record for a run-off.

06:18 AM

Democrat claims victory before winner declared

Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock claimed victory on Tuesday night in a key US Senate race against Republican Kelly Loeffler – who has not conceded defeat.

US officials and major media had yet to declare a winner for either of the two Georgia seats at stake, both of which Joe Biden’s Democrats need to flip to take control of the Senate.

“Georgia, I am honored by the faith that you have shown in me,” Warnock, a 51-year-old Black pastor, said in a televised address shortly after midnight. “And I promise you this tonight, I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia.”

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock speaks on his campaign's Youtube account - via Reuters
Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock speaks on his campaign’s Youtube account – via Reuters

05:59 AM

Run-offs still neck and neck in seesaw night

As the hour slipped past midnight on the East Coast, the odds of Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff beating Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue were slowing inching up. 

It was a seesaw night. Warnock and Ossoff jumped to early leads, but as more votes came in, the Republicans swung in front.

It made for some great television suspense, although people following online saw a different view. The New York Times website estimated the victory probabilities in each race and, as the evening progressed, moved steadily in the Democrats’ direction. After midnight, the Times judged both Warnock and Ossoff had a better than 95 per cent chance of winning.

Even before 10 pm, Dave Wasserman of the influential Cook Political Report tweeted that he had seen enough to predict Warnock would beat Loeffler. That led Twitter, however, to slap his prediction with a warning that other sources were saying it was too close to call.

05:09 AM

Georgia GOP election night party beginning to empty

The Republican election night party in Atlanta is beginning to empty, with those remaining increasingly concerned that one or both GOP Georgia Senate candidates could lose.

That would give Georgia a Democratic senator for the first time since 2005, when Zell Miller retired from his seat.

John Burke, a spokesperson for Republican David Perdue, says, “This is going to be close.” He says, “We’ll see how the last few votes go.”

Republican supporters attend a run-off election night party at Grand Hyatt Hotel in Buckhead in Atlanta - Getty
Republican supporters attend a run-off election night party at Grand Hyatt Hotel in Buckhead in Atlanta – Getty

04:49 AM

Survey reveals voter division in battleground state

As votes were tallied on Tuesday night, Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff had the backing of Black voters, younger voters, people earning less than $50,000 and newcomers to the state, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of voters in Tuesday’s high-stakes Senate contests.

The Republican coalition backing Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue was the mirror opposite: white, older, wealthier and longtime Georgia residents.

The findings from AP VoteCast reveal the extent of Georgia’s recent political transformation – from GOP bastion to electoral battleground where turnout is decisive. 

The survey found roughly 30 per cent of Georgia voters were Black and almost all of them – 94 per cent – backed Democrats. Voters under 45, those earning less than $50,000 and those who recently moved to Georgia all broke for Democrats.

But Republicans held firmly onto their supporters, bringing out white voters and those older than 45 – groups that still account for majorities of Georgia voters. Republicans Perdue and Loeffler also fared better than their rivals among voters earning more than $75,000 and those who have called Georgia home for more than 20 years.

A person dressed in a Spider-Man costume holds campaign signs for Senate candidates near a polling location in Marietta, Georgia - Bloomberg
A person dressed in a Spider-Man costume holds campaign signs for Senate candidates near a polling location in Marietta, Georgia – Bloomberg

04:10 AM

Trump claims ‘voter dump’ against Republican candidates

Donald Trump has suggested that Georgian officials are waiting to see how many votes Democrats need to beat the Republicans before announcing results.

In his latest unfounded claim of election fraud, Mr Trump appears to be saying that the vote is rigged against his party. But votes are being published in batches as they are counted, with delays due to counting a large number of postal votes.

03:52 AM

Trump statement with wrong date provokes ridicule

We’ve all done it, haven’t we? When the new year begins, it takes a few days to get used to writing the correct date.

But most of us aren’t writing statements for the the president of the United States.

A post issued by the Trump campaign has provoked ridicule on Twitter after it contained a number of falsehoods – and the wrong date.

In the statement, the president’s team denied a New York Times report that Mike Pence will certify Joe Biden’s victory. The statement claims, wrongly, that the vice-president “can decertify the results or send them back to the states for change and certification. He can also decertify the illegal and corrupt results and send them to the House of Representatives for the one vote for one state tabulation.” This is not true and there is no precedent for a US vice-president doing this.

The statement was also incorrectly dated 2020.

03:28 AM

Proud Boys leader banned from DC

Washington police banned the leader of a far-right group from the city and made two arrests on Tuesday as protesters supporting President Trump’s attempts to overturn the election gathered in the city.

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, who was arrested on Monday for destruction of property and possession of a firearm magazine, was released on Tuesday and ordered to stay away from the city, according to a court document.

Protests against President-elect Joe Biden’s November election win, which Congress will certify on Wednesday, started across the US capital on Tuesday and were expected to grow on Wednesday to thousands of people.

Mr Trump, who lost the election by 7 million votes, was expected to speak to protesters on Wednesday morning at the Ellipse, a public park south of the White House, he said in a post on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

Protesters are gathering in Washington DC before Wednesday's pro-Trump rally - GETTY IMAGES
Protesters are gathering in Washington DC before Wednesday’s pro-Trump rally – GETTY IMAGES

02:48 AM

Trump to blame if we lose, says Republican official

A top Republican official in the Georgia secretary of state’s office has blamed Donald Trump for the Republican party’s results so far, as early counts suggest they may be heading for defeat.

Gabriel Sterling told CNN that if the Republican senators lose, the blame ought to “fall squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since November 3”.

Mr Sterling has criticised Mr Trump’s untrue claims of fraud in the November election. He told CNN that the president’s claims undermined Republican voters’ trust in voting.

Mr Sterling also claimed that the president has started a “civil war” among Georgia Republicans by denying the results of the November election.

Gabriel Sterling said Donald Trump had led Republicans to believe that their vote did not matter - EPA
Gabriel Sterling said Donald Trump had led Republicans to believe that their vote did not matter – EPA

02:28 AM

FBI investigated Georgia bomb threat

The elections director for Georgia’s most populous county said a bomb threat targeting an Election Day polling place was investigated last week by the FBI.

Rick Barron of Fulton County said during a media briefing that “the person said that the Nashville bombing was a practice run for what we would see today at one of our polling places.”

A bomb detonated in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning, killing the bomber and injuring three other people and damaging dozens of buildings.

The Fulton County threat, received on December 30, was reported to the FBI. Mr Barron said agents visited the Tennessee home of the man who made the threat and searched it but did not make any arrests.

Mr Barron also revealed that several members of his staff have received death threats and “innumerable racial slurs” have been directed at his staff, by phone and on social media.

02:24 AM

Bush to attend inauguration

Republican former US president George W Bush will attend the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, his chief of staff has said.

“President and Mrs Bush look forward to returning to the Capitol for the swearing in of President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Freddy Ford tweeted.

“Witnessing the peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy that never gets old,” he added, in a seeming jab at President Trump who refuses to concede defeat and has not confirmed if he will attend Mr Biden’s inauguration.

It will be the eighth swearing-in ceremony the Bushs have attended, Mr Ford said.

George Bush left office in 2009 - GETTY IMAGES
George Bush left office in 2009 – GETTY IMAGES

01:57 AM

In-person turnout surges in Atlanta counties

More people voted in Georgia’s most populous county during Tuesday’s run-off election than on Election Day in November.

Fulton County elections director Rick Barron said there were more than 70,000 votes cast in person on Tuesday, with about 60,000 in-person votes on November 3. Fulton County includes most of Atlanta and is heavily Democratic.

Mr Barron noted that there were fewer absentee ballots cast than during the general election and that the early in-person voting period was four days shorter, both of which he said may have contributed to the higher Election Day turnout.

Spokesperson Summer Dunham says neighbouring DeKalb County, also a Democratic stronghold, also had more in-person votes on Tuesday than on November 3.

12:46 AM

First results: Big lead for Democrats

Georgia voters in Tuesday’s run-off races were evenly divided about which party should win, an exit poll showed.

With about 10 per cent of the vote counted, Democrat Rev Raphael Warnock led Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler by 54.9pc to 45.1pc, while Jon Ossoff led Republican Senator David Perdue by 54.3pc to 45.7pc. However, those votes are from counties in Atlanta that are expected to vote Democrat.

Edison Research’s exit poll found roughly half of voters would prefer the Republican Party to retain control and half would like to see the Democrats take over, reflecting how close the two races were likely to be.

The poll also found about half of voters in the two Senate run-off races voted for President Donald Trump in November’s presidential election and half for Democrat Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, about three quarters of voters who backed Republican candidates in Tuesday’s votes said Joe Biden was not legitimately elected in November, according to AP VoteCast.

12:22 AM

Polls close across state

Most polls have now closed in Georgia, though voters who were in line before 7pm (12am UK) will be allowed to vote.

Results will begin to be posted in the next hour, though it may be some time before we have a definitive result.

Officials have already started processing postal votes which should help to avoid a repeat of the scenes in November when Georgia’s votes took days to count.

Staff in Lawrenceville, Georgia, get cracking with the huge task of processing and counting all the votes - AP
Staff in Lawrenceville, Georgia, get cracking with the huge task of processing and counting all the votes – AP

12:13 AM

Explained: the Georgia Senate vote

Georgia officials have started counting ballots as polls close across the state in two critical races.

Here’s what you need to know.

What are these votes for?

There are two Senate run-off elections being held. The votes are leftovers from the November general election, when none of the candidates hit the 50 per cent threshold.

Why are they important?

Democrats need to win both of the votes to seize the Senate majority – and, with it, control of the new Congress when Biden takes office in two weeks.

Who are the candidates?

In one contest, Republican Kelly Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago by the state’s governor, faces Democrat Raphael Warnock, 51, who serves as the senior pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr grew up and preached.

The other election pits 71-year-old former business executive David Perdue, a Republican who held his Senate seat until his term expired on Sunday, against Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist. At just 33 years old, Mr Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member.

When will we get the results?

We could know the winners late on Tuesday evening in the US (early Wednesday in the UK).

12:05 AM

Trump will speak at ‘Save America’ rally

President Trump has confirmed he will address a rally of his supporters on Wednesday in Washington.

Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday evening that he will be speaking and is expecting a big crowd at the event, a protest against the certification by Congress of the 2020 election results.

12:02 AM

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