Georgian students strive to flip the Senate


Maddie Thorpe

A Georgia lawn with signs for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both running in Georgia’s two runoff Senate races.

By Dana Gerber, News Editor

Over 1,000 miles from the Boston campus, some of Emerson’s 47 Georgian students are vying to send two Democratic hopefuls to the Senate on Tuesday, which would give President-elect Joseph R. Biden total command of the executive and legislative branches. 

Both of Georgia’s Senate seats are up for grabs in these decisive elections after no candidate secured a majority of votes in the Nov. 3 general election. Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue is battling Democrat Jon Ossoff in a runoff, and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is defending her seat—which she was appointed to last year after former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s resignation—against Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock in a special election. 

If the Democratic candidates clinch both seats, the Senate will be split 50-50 along party lines, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris poised to act as tie-breaker.

“We had a lot of control in the Presidential election, and we have complete control now,” Maddie Thorpe, a first-year student who lives in Atlanta, said. “I’m nervous that we are kind of in the driver’s seat right now, cause even though I was raised in a liberal area, I am fully aware of what goes on outside of my city.”  

The last time Georgia sent a Democrat to the Senate was with Zell Miller in 2000, who held the seat until 2004. 

“Georgia has been red for a while, and all of a sudden it’s blue—everyone’s counting on Georgia, and I’m counting on Georgia, too,” Kerri Stephenson, a first-year from blue-leaning Suwanee, Georgia, said. “It’s out of the ordinary. Especially since this is my first time voting and stuff, it’s really important, I feel.”

In the November election, Biden eked out a victory in the Peach State—the first time the traditionally conservative state has gone blue since 1992. Biden’s success was largely attributable to the mobilization of Black voters, an effort spearheaded by Stacey Abrams and organizations like Black Votes Matter. These voters had been long-disenfranchised across the state through acts of voter suppression, such as the removal of polling places in low-income and Black communities, according to The Washington Post.

Biden won by a margin of about 11,000 votes, a result President Donald Trump has since contested. On Sunday, The Washington Post released audio of a call wherein Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the necessary ballots that would deliver him the state’s crucial 16 electoral votes. 

“It’s Georgia—there’s not much going on, and if we did flip the [Senate], that would be pretty monumental,” Stephenson said. “If Georgia can turn blue for the presidential election, I’m hopeful that we can pull through in the same way.” 

Also in the November elections, Warnock received the plurality, about one-third, of the votes in his race. Perdue led his race by about 88,000 votes but fell just short of the majority of votes that would have prevented a runoff.  

Both Stephenson and Thorpe are among the more than three million voters who cast their ballots early, according to Georgia Votes, a website that compiles data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. 

Biden, Harris, Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Georgia over the previous days, imploring voters to show up to the polls. Thorpe said the local publicity surrounding these Senate races surpasses that of the Presidential election. 

“On TV, on social media, anywhere on the internet, you can’t go five minutes without seeing an ad for one of the four candidates,” Thorpe said. “Anytime I go for a drive in my neighborhood, everyone has a sign.”

First-year Nick Powell, who is from rural, deeply-red Rome in northwest Georgia, said he’s noticing more support for Democrats than usual in neighborhood signs. His parents, who usually don’t put up signs because “they’re afraid of getting vandalized by people who disagree,” put up one for Warnock. 

“80 percent of them are usually for the Republican candidate—I’ve seen a lot more signs for Ossoff and Warnock this time around,” Powell, who also voted early, said. “I think people are putting up signs that normally don’t.” 

In a poll conducted in mid-December, Emerson Polling predicted close races in Georgia. Both Republican candidates were slightly ahead, with both Perdue and Loeffler at 51 percent and Warnock and Ossoff at 48 percent. The 18-29-year-old age range, however, pulled heavily for the Democrats, with 69 percent and 71 percent for Ossoff and Warnock, respectively. 

Polls are set to close at 7 p.m., but there is no guarantee the results will be finalized tonight. 

Powell said he previously felt Georgia was “a nothing state,” but said he now feels the gravity of Georgia’s role in the future of the country and incoming administration. 

“I’m not sure if the same people who maybe were undecided, or were Republican voters most of the time who came out for Biden, are going to come out for Warnock and Ossoff, but I’m trying to be hopeful,” he said. “It really does feel for the first time in a while Democratic voters in Georgia have a say in what happens to the country, so it’s a different kind of feeling.”