World

Democrats win one seat, lead in another in US Senate runoffs: Reports

Trump could be first president since 1932 to lose White House and both chambers of Congress in one term

ATLANTA: Democrats won one US Senate race in Georgia and led in another as of press time yesterday.

Mr Raphael Warnock, a Baptist preacher from the historic church of Martin Luther King Jr, beat Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler to become the first African American senator in Georgia's history.

Mr Jon Ossoff, a documentary film-maker who at 33 would become the Senate's youngest member, also declared victory with a narrow lead over incumbent Republican David Perdue, although media, including Edison Research, had yet to call that race.

If upheld, the results would amount to a final defeat for President Donald Trump, who stands to be the first US president since 1932 to lose the White House and both chambers of Congress in a single term.

Mr Trump held rallies for both candidates, but overshadowed the campaign with false accusations that his own loss in the November presidential election in Georgia was tainted by fraud, repeatedly attacking Republican officials in the state.

With 98 per cent of votes in, Mr Warnock was ahead of Loeffler by 1.2 percentage points, roughly 54,000 votes, according to Edison Research.

Mr Ossoff led Mr Perdue by more than 16,000 votes, or 0.4 percentage points, just shy of a 0.5 per cent threshold to avoid a recount. Most outstanding votes were from Democratic-leaning areas.

Winning both contests would give Democrats control of the Senate, creating a 50-50 split and giving incoming Vice-President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote once she and President-elect Joe Biden take office on Jan 20. The party has a narrow majority in the US House of Representatives.

Holding on to either seat would have effectively given Republicans a veto over Mr Biden's political and judicial appointees, as well as his legislative initiatives in areas from coronavirus relief to climate change, healthcare and justice.

The campaign's final days were overshadowed by Mr Trump's attacks on his own election defeat in the state, including a recording of a phone call in which he hectored Republican Georgia officials to "find" enough votes make him the winner.

In a video message, Mr Warnock recalled his humble upbringing as one of 12 children of a woman who worked in cotton fields.

"Because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator," he said.

Declaring victory, Mr Ossoff said he looked forward "to serving you in the United States Senate with integrity, with humility, with honour".

Both Republican senators, following the lead of Mr Trump who has never conceded his own loss, predicted they would ultimately win and have insisted they would fight on.

"We have a path to victory and we're staying on it," Ms Loeffler told supporters.

During the campaign, Republicans had painted Mr Ossoff and Mr Warnock as radicals who would pursue a hard-left agenda.

But that message failed to resonate with many white suburbanites, who have increasingly abandoned the Republican party under Mr Trump. - REUTERS

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