On Thursday afternoon, the future of the Senate still remained hazy thanks to two tight races in Georgia. Going into Election Day, Democrats needed to pick up four seats in order to win control of the Senate, though, in the event of a Joe Biden presidency, three seats would suffice.
Ballots were still being counted in four different Senate races—three of which were still competitive. Republican Dan Sullivan was leading in Alaska and is expected to secure that seat. In North Carolina, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is leading his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham by nearly 100,000 votes with 93 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press.
Despite Tillis’ lead, the NC race remains uncertain because the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots is Nov. 12. According to the Wall Street Journal, citing data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections from earlier this week, about 117,00 voters who requested an absentee ballot haven’t voted. However, the WSJ notes that number doesn’t account for voters who opted to cast their ballot in-person on Tuesday. Voters with mail ballots rejected because of technical errors—like forgetting a signature on a ballot envelope—are also legally allowed to fix or “cure” their ballots before next Thursday.
It will take even longer to know who will represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), who weaponized her opposition to Black Lives Matter in a bid to position herself to the right of her conservative challenger, Doug Collins, failed to secure the “50 percent plus one” share of the electorate necessary to secure her seat. As a result, she’ll be facing off against her Democratic challenger, Rev. Ralph Warnock, head of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, come January.
Sen. Loeffler, who co-owns the WNBA team the Atlanta Dream, made waves this summer after calling on the league to sideline its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. She was swiftly condemned by WNBA players. In August, players for the Dream and the Phoenix Mercury wore shirts in support of Rev. Warnock before a nationally televised game—a rare instance of professional athletes publicly and collectively defying an owner, as well as endorsing a political candidate.
Warnock is already gearing up for a dirty race, releasing a campaign ad this week warning of upcoming attacks from Loeffler.
“Raphael Warnock once stepped on a crack in a sidewalk. Raphael Warnock hates puppies,” warns a sinister-sounding voice over. Warnock then butts in with his own message.
“Get ready, Georgia, the negative ads are coming,” he said. “Kelly Loeffler doesn’t want to talk about why she’s for getting rid of healthcare in the middle of a pandemic, so she’s going to try to scare you with lies about me.”
The Peach State could see another runoff at the beginning of next year if Republican Sen. David Perdue doesn’t maintain a majority percentage of the vote in his race. He currently leads Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff by 100,000 votes with 98 percent of precincts reporting. But as WSB-TV reported early Thursday afternoon, Perdue appeared to have fallen below the more than 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The Georgia Secretary of State website showed Perdue with a 49.98 percent share of the vote compared to Ossoff’s 47.71 percent.
Still, even if Democrats manage to mount a double ouster in Georgia, their path to a Senate majority needs to go through North Carolina. Otherwise, McConnell and the GOP will keep control of the congressional chamber for at least another two years. The Democrats’ next shot at flipping the Senate will come in 2022, when 34 of the Senate’s 100 seats will be up for election, with 12 currently held by Democrats and the remaining 22 by Republicans.
“We are in a pretty good position in North Carolina and Maine,” Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said before Democrat Sara Gideons conceded the election to Republican incumbent Susan Collins. “If we win in North Carolina and Maine, I’m still the offensive coordinator, so we may know by the end of the day.”