Georgia’s voting system manager said Wednesday that he expects the Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to win their runoffs.
Gabriel Sterling, an aide to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, said that as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, at least 60,000 absentee ballots were still left to be counted following Tuesday’s pair of U.S. Senate and the Public Service Commission runoffs.
Because most of those ballots are in Democratic-leaning counties, including the population centers of DeKalb, Cobb and Fulton, Sterling said he expects the current leads to hold up. That would pave the way for Warnock and Ossoff to upset Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
By early Wednesday afternoon, Warnock’s 2.31 million votes gave him about 55,000 advantage over Loeffler, while Ossoff held a slim 17,500 vote margin over Perdue. Sterling also predicted that Republican Lauren Bubba McDonald would remain ahead of Democrat Daniel Blackman in the statewide Public Service Commission race.
“It looks like Jon Ossoff will likely have a margin outside of the half a percent to avoid a recount,” Sterling said during a media briefing. “And obviously Rev. Warnock is ahead of him right now, so if Jon avoids a recount, so does Rev. Warnock.”
If Warnock and Ossoff’s leads hold up, it marks a pivotal moment in Georgia’s history and tips the balance of federal power in favor of Democrats to have control of the White House, U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
Both Ossoff and Warnock have declared victories in their runoffs, with Ossoff staking his claim in remarks Wednesday morning.
“I want to thank the people of Georgia for participating in this election, everybody who cast your ballot, everybody who put your faith and confidence in our democracy’s capacity to deliver the representation that we deserve whether you work for me, or against me, I’ll be for you in the U.S. Senate,” Ossoff said.
Georgian voters turned out in record numbers for a runoff with more than 4.4 million people voting via absentee ballots and at polling places. Of those, more than 1.3 million cast their ballots on Tuesday, a higher turnout than Election Day in the November general election with the presidential race at the top of the ticket.
The intense Senate runoffs drew a national spotlight to Georgia acrimonious attention from President Donald Trump, who joined with his allies to spin false claims of voting fraud in Georgia’s presidential election.
Sterling credited Democrats’ recent key victories to strong voter mobilization efforts and he blamed Trump’s unfounded claims casting doubt on the state’s election integrity for discouraging GOP voters from turning out for the Senate runoffs .
The president also sparked a GOP Civil War by focusing attacks on criticizing Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp than Ossoff and Warnock, Sterling added.
Since losing Georgia’s Nov. 3 presidential election to President-elect Joe Biden by fewer than 12,000 votes, Trump has repeatedly complained that Kemp and Raffensperger would not overturn the results. Last week the president demanded the governor resign for refusing to intervene in the election.
Biden, who campaigned twice in Georgia for Warnock and Ossoff as president-elect, issued a statement Wednesday morning saying that it appeared his party would gain control of the Senate.
“It looks like we will emerge from yesterday’s election with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, and of course I’m pleased that we will be able to work with Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and a Majority Leader (Chuck) Schumer,” Biden said. “But I’m also just as determined today as I was yesterday to try to work with people in both parties — at the federal, state, and local levels — to get big things done for our nation.”
Georgia Recorder deputy editor Jill Nolin contributed to this report.