Democratic hopes of wrenching control of the Senate from Republicans received an unexpected boost as it seems likely that two key races in the southern state of Georgia may be headed to runoff races.
One of the races is definitely headed to a second round in January, while a second Georgia contest and races in North Carolina and Alaska remain undecided, leaving the chamber now deadlocked 48-48. An outcome may now not be known until the new year.
Republicans look likely to win in North Carolina and Alaska, but Democrats would undoubtedly focus huge amounts of energy and money on trying to win the Georgia runoffs. If both races did go to runoffs – and Democrats were to win them – it would leave the Senate split 50-50, with the vice-president serving as a tie-breaker.
If Joe Biden is in the White House, that would mean a vice-president Kamala Harris would be the deciding vote in the Senate. If Donald Trump wins a second term, then it would be Mike Pence, the current vice-president.
“We’re waiting – whether I’m going to be the majority leader or not,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said Wednesday.
Counting continues in Georgia, where Republican David Perdue was trying to hold off Democrat Jon Ossoff in a multi-candidate race that could also go to a runoff if neither candidate clears the 50% threshold to win.
There already is a 5 January runoff in the state’s other Senate race. Republican senator Kelly Loeffler will face Democrat Raphael Warnock, a Black pastor at the church where the Rev Martin Luther King preached. Loeffler and Warnock were the top vote-getters in the race, but neither candidate was able to get a majority of the vote needed to win the seat outright.
In North Carolina, the Republican senator Thom Tillis hoped to prevail over Democrat Cal Cunningham, whose sexting affair with a public relations specialist has clouded the race. Republicans were confident they would keep Alaska, where Republican senator Dan Sullivan was faced a challenge by Democratic newcomer Al Gross, a doctor.
Winning the Senate is vital as America’s complex governmental system of checks and balances gives the upper chamber of congress immense power in limiting a president’s ability to get their legislative agenda passed as well as having influence on key administration and judicial appointment.