ATLANTA - Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock has defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff election, The Associated Press projects.
In an address to his followers early Wednesday morning, Warnock claimed victory in Georgia’s U.S. Senate special election runoff race, though Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not conceded.
Warnock was leading Loeffler by more than 40,00 votes with 99% of precincts reporting. FOX News also called the race for Warnock.
Speaking to his supporters in a virtual address, Warnock gave an assurance that he was headed to Washington.
"I promise this to you tonight, I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia," Warnock said.
Warnock would become Georgia’s first Black senator.
Warnock, 51, who "grew up in public housing" in Savannah and "went to college on a Pell Grant" before eventually becoming the pastor of Martin Luther King’s church in Atlanta, appeared to help draw a surge in Black voters across the state.
In his address, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church said Georgians, and Americans overall, have a choice to make in order to move forward.
"Will we continue to divide, distract and dishonor each other or will we love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Will we play games while real people suffer or will we win righteous fights together, standing shoulder to shoulder for the good of Georgia, for the good of the country," Warnock said.
Warnock took nearly a third of the vote in November’s special election that saw a 20-candidate melee that left him and Loeffler, who beat out fellow Republican Doug Collins with 25 percent of the vote, still standing. Warnock and fellow Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff were quick to tie their success together, talking often of a "new Georgia" as they concentrated efforts around Atlanta and the state’s mid-size cities.
Loeffler, the incumbent, also addressed her followers in an in-person speech. The senator declared the race was far from over.
"I'm asking for every single Georgian, every single American, stay in the fight with us. We're going to keep fighting for you. This is about protecting the American dream," Loeffler said.
Democrats need to win both runoff races to seize the Senate majority — and, with it, full control of the new Congress when President-elect Joe Biden takes office in two weeks.
State officials said there were no major problems with voting on Tuesday.
Gabriel Sterling, a top official with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, said voting was smooth across the state with minimal wait times, though lines of around an hour built up in Republican-leaning Houston, Cherokee, Paulding and Forsyth counties.
Sterling said about 1.1 million Georgians came out to vote on runoff Election Day. More than 3 million voters cast ballots before Election Day. That’s more than 60% of the nearly 5 million who voted in November’s presidential election.
With the races being so close, election officials with the Secretary of State's office say they expect at least one campaign to request a recount. Under Georgia law, a candidate can request a recount if the margin is less than or equal to 0.5%. That request has to be made within two business days of the results being certified.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.