Credit: Georgia Recorder/File photo
Senators At Last, Today's Swearing-In Caps Georgia's Election Season
Georgia’s extended 2020 election is set to finally deliver the will of the state’s voters Wednesday as a new vice president conducts a swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Sens. Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
After months of attack ads fueled by record campaign spending, baseless presidential election fraud conspiracies and even death threats aimed at state officials, Ossoff and Warnock are set to take their oaths a few hours after Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration. Kamala Harris, newly sworn in herself, is set to swear in her first senators at about 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified the Jan. 5 runoff election and Gov. Brian Kemp signed off soon after.
The new senators will arrive in Washington in time to participate in Donald Trump’s looming impeachment trial and as Democrats prepare to push for a large coronavirus relief package and to expedite the federal COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
The high stakes contest that handed Democrats control of the federal government broke congressional election records with more than $700 million in total campaign spending.
While news outlets called Georgia’s presidential race within a week after the Nov. 3 election, Trump refused to concede and even his campaign appearances in support of the two GOP Senate incumbents this month was dominated by him airing his own grievances against state officials who didn’t overturn Biden’s win.
The relentless attack on the voting system’s integrity by the president and his allies also likely deterred thousands of Republicans from voting in the Senate runoffs, said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor.
“It was part of the sideshow, but it had an impact in Trump constantly saying the Georgia election system is not to be trusted, that it is rigged, it can be manipulated,” Bullock said. “It probably dissuaded some Republicans from going to the polling places. It also robbed Republicans of an undiluted message.”
The final count in the Senate special election runoff showed Warnock’s total at 2.29 million votes, giving him a 93,000-vote edge over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. He is set to serve two years to complete the term of Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down in 2019 for health reasons. Ossoff’s upset win over GOP Sen. David Perdue by more than 53,000 votes gives him six years to shed the title of the Senate’s youngest member.
The final Trump-related election lawsuit concerning Georgia, the so-called Kraken lawsuit, was voluntarily dismissed Tuesday by former Trump attorney Sidney Powell.
Georgia’s new senators will arrive as the Senate prepares to begin a second round of impeachment hearings over charges that Trump incited a deadly U.S. Capitol riot Jan. 6 as he peppered loyalists with false claims of a stolen election.
“Donald Trump remains a threat to our democracy and will be held accountable for what he’s done, whether or not he’s president during the trial,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and next Senate majority leader. “At the same time, the Senate’s work on behalf of the American people will not be deterred. The nation is facing unprecedented challenges in the greatest economic crisis in 75 years since the Great Depression.”
Also high on Biden’s priority list is a restoration of federal voting review laws through the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, now stalled in the Senate.
Named after the late Georgia congressman and civil rights leader, the legislation would require states and counties to get Department of Justice approval before making voting changes, as Georgia Republican lawmakers are considering after losing statewide elections to Democrats for the first time in decades.
The John Lewis Act could be critical if state Democrats are to fight off Republican-led attempts to make absentee voting harder, state House Minority Leader James Beverly said.
“As we move forward, having the Department of Justice be a Democratic appointment is going to be great, and it’ll impact anything we do with voting at the state level,” said the Macon resident.
This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Georgia Recorder.