This story has been updated.
Republican Kelly Loeffler is projected to lose her U.S. Senate seat in Georgia to Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock, according to Decision Desk HQ, as is Republican Sen. David Perdue to Democrat Jon Ossoff. If Warnock’s and Ossoff’s wins are certified, it will shift control of the upper chamber from Republicans to evenly split.
Heading into the runoff races, Republicans held 50 of the Senate’s 100 seats and Democrats held 46 seats, along with two independents who caucus with them. There is now a projected 50-50 split and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will likely act as a frequent tiebreaker.
This was Loeffler’s first time on the ballot even though she has served in the Senate since the beginning of this year. Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appointed her in late 2019 to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned citing health concerns, in a move to shore up support from suburban White women who rejected Republican candidates during the 2018 midterms and helped Democrats take control of the House.
But Kemp’s decision ran afoul of President Donald Trump, who made clear that he would have preferred to install Rep. Doug Collins, a staunchly conservative ally who defended Trump during his impeachment proceedings. Collins challenged Loeffler for the remainder of Isakson’s term.
In November, Loeffler received about 26 percent of the vote; Collins won 20 percent and Warnock 33 percent. No candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, triggering a special election.
Collins, meanwhile, was tapped by Trump to oversee a presidential recount in the state after President-elect Joe Biden became the first Democratic White House contender to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.
Trump’s fury at his loss — overall and in Georgia, specifically — and his continued baseless attacks on the validity of Georgia’s November election results made the outgoing president a liability for Republicans headed into the runoff elections.
Experts agreed that turnout on both sides would be key — Democrats saw record numbers of ballots cast in November, when activists such as Stacey Abrams, a 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate, and LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, were credited with helping turn Georgia blue. But, as Demoratic activists worked to turn out the vote again, Trump told Georgia voters that their election had been rigged against them.
In an hour-long phone call released the weekend before the election, the president told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” enough uncounted votes to reverse his loss there, according to audio obtained by the Washington Post.
Trump has called Raffensperger an “enemy of the people,” said Kemp is a “Republican in name only,” and mocked Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan as a “puppet.”
Trump traveled to Georgia on Monday for an election eve rally where he praised Loeffler and Perdue as candidates but spent vastly more time airing his own grievances about the election outcome.
Hours before, Loeffler had said she would join a Republican effort to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory in what would typically be a routine vote that Congress is set to hold on Wednesday. While the effort to block certification will fail, it has forced Republicans to decide whether they will defend the integrity of the country’s elections or back Trump’s increasingly frantic but still meritless claims that voter fraud cost him the White House.
“On January 6, I will object to the electoral vote — we’re going to get this done!” Loeffler said in brief remarks delivered at the rally.
“People will remember the people who don’t support us,” Trump had told the crowd.