by Wylie Kalotay-Nemec
Back in early January, you might have heard a lot of news about the Georgia senate elections, and wondered “Why am I hearing about this now, the election was two months ago?” Well to tell you that, I will need to talk about the political history of Georgia, what happened this election, and why it is important.
The thing about Georgia is that it is historically Republican, and 16 years ago, it wouldn’t even be considered a swing state. But in 2020, it turned blue for the first time in the presidential election since 1992, and has only been Democratic two times in the last ten presidential elections, so as you can see, it is historically Republican.
The reason that everyone was interested in Georgia in January was because there were two runoff elections, one of them between Jon Ossoff and David Perdue, and the other one between Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler. This was because no candidate got above 50% in both races on election day in November so it was required by the state that they have a runoff election, which is where everyone votes again, so nothing in the first election matters.
This was key for Jon Ossoff, because he only got 47.9% and David Perdue Got 49.7% so if that law wouldn’t have been there, Jon Ossoff would have lost. Meanwhile, in the other election, Raphael Warnock actually led the race, but with only 32%. The reason that happened was because there were two Republican candidates, Kelly Loeffler who got 25%, and Doug Collins who got 20%, so the two Republican candidates together still wouldn’t have gotten 50%, but would have been leading against Raphael Warnock. The results in that election changed a lot too, so both Ossoff and Warnock were lucky that there was a runoff. In the runoff election, both Democratic candidates won.
I haven’t explained this yet, but for people who don’t know, The United States government is split into three groups: the Executive Branch, which is the President and the Vice President, the Judicial Branch, which is the Supreme Court, and then there is the Legislative Branch, which is Congress. Congress is split into two groups, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House has 435 voting representatives, and The Senate has two elected representatives per state so 100 people overall.
Before the November elections, the balance of power in the Senate was that the Democrats only had 47 seats and the Republicans had 53 people so the Republicans had a big advantage. Now as a result of the 2020 November election and the 2021 Georgia runoff elections, the Senate has 50 elected Democrats and 50 elected Republicans, but the Democrats technically have the lead, because Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the President of the Senate and gets to cast a tie breaking vote in a 50 to 50 deadlock, so the Democrats actually have a 51 to 50 advantage.
Another reason why the runoff elections were so important to the Democrats is that Chuck Schumer has now become the majority leader, and one of his responsibilities is to choose which bills thought of by Congress and the President will actually be brought to the Senate for a vote. The previous majority leader was Republican Mitch McConnell, who would most likely not let bills that he didn’t want to pass to even have a chance to get voted on. Also, most things that Congress votes on, they need a majority to win, so if it is 50/50, then Kamala Harris can come in and help the Democrats win a vote.
A fun fact for you, both of the new senators made history. Raphael Warnock is the first Black Senator from Georgia, and Jon Ossoff is the first Jewish senator from Georgia.
That is why Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock make such a difference in the Senate.