In 2020 — the year when nothing is guaranteed — the adage that an election campaign is a marathon, not a sprint, also applies to the counting of votes. Those of you who went to bed late Tuesday and figured on waking up Wednesday to definitive results will be disappointed.
Georgia’s election will be national news Wednesday, as tens of thousands of votes cast in metro Atlanta had yet to be counted as of 2.30 a.m., particularly in heavily Democratic Fulton and DeKalb counties, as well as in Gwinnett County, where Democrats have made gains in recent elections.
Those ballots could affect the outcome of the presidential race, as Georgia — with its 16 electoral votes — was one of a handful of states not placed in the columns of either Republican President Donald Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden. As of 2:45 a.m., Trump held 50.6 percent of the vote and Biden 48.1 percent.
Georgia also was in a position to determine control of the U.S. Senate, as both of its Senate seats were being contested, with one definitely going to a Jan. 5 runoff. The U.S. House race in the 7th District remained too close to call. And it appeared that there would be only one Jewish member of the Georgia state legislature.
A staggering number of absentee ballots and heavy early in-person voting, when added to ballots cast on Election Day, left election officials across Georgia with an enormous task. The election, using $104 million in new voting machines, was not problem free, but neither did the state suffer from the embarrassing long lines scene during the June 9 primary.
By 2:45 a.m., more than 4.67 million votes had been tallied, roughly 90 percent of the state’s estimated vote. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had estimated a turnout of more than 5 million, possibly rivaling the record 75.6 percent turnout in 2016.
Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue held a 51 percent to 46.6 percent lead over Democratic, and Jewish, challenger Jon Ossoff, with Libertarian Shane Hazel at 2.3 percent. Neither Perdue nor Ossoff had made a statement as of 2:45 a.m. Wednesday. A Jan. 5 runoff would be needed if no candidate wins a majority of the vote.
A Jan. 5 runoff will decide who fills the final two years of the term of former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired last December because of health concerns. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler was appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to fill the seat until the 2020 election.
Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, running as a Democrat, led the race with 31.7 percent, with Loeffler second at 26.5 percent. “Something special and transformational is happening right here in Georgia,” Warnock told supporters, “The people – everyday people, ordinary people – are rising up, and they are demanding change.” If elected, Warnock would be the state’s first African American senator.
For her part, Loeffler told her backers, “You all know how important it is that we all come together because the radical left wants to take over this country and we’re going to fight back against that.”
Republican Rep. Doug Collins, trailing in third with 20.5 percent of the vote, conceded and closed ranks behind Loeffler after a campaign in which the Republican pair savaged each other in advertising and public remarks. On Twitter, Collins posted: “I look forward to all Republicans coming together. Raphael Warnock would be a disaster for Georgia and America.”
A Jewish candidate in the race, Democrat Matt Lieberman, conceded and gave his support to Warnock. Lieberman, who war far back in fifth place with 2.7 percent, had been under intense pressure before the election, including from leading local Jewish Democrats, to withdraw in support of Warnock.
In U.S. House races, Democrat incumbent Rep. Hank Johnson was headed for a comfortable win and an eight term from the 4th Congressional District.
In the 5th District, state Sen. and Georgia Democratic Party chair Nikema Williams was en route to an easy win in the district represented for 17 terms by the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who died in July of pancreatic cancer.
As of 2:45 a.m., Democratic incumbent Rep. Lucy McBath led in her re-election bid in the 6th District, leading former Rep. Karen Handel, whom she unseated in 2018, by a margin of 54.2 percent of the vote to 45.7 percent for Handel.
The 7th District race see-sawed early Wednesday. As of 2:45 a.m., Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux held 51.1 percent of the vote, with 48.8 percent for Republican Rich McCormick. Republican Rep. Rob Woodall — who defeated Bourdeaux in 2018 by slightly more than 400 votes — decided not to seek re-election, which made the 7th an open seat that Democrats had hoped to flip.
In the 11th district, Democratic challenger Dana Barrett, who is Jewish, was losing to incumbent Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk by a margin of 61.1 percent to 38.9 percent.
Incumbent Democratic Rep. David Scott was on course for a comfortable re-election in the 13th District.
Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has received national attention for espousing QAnon conspiracy theories, was assured election from the heavily conservative 14th District, her opponent having withdrawn from the race weeks before the election.
Among Jewish candidates in state House races, in the 51st District Republican challenger Alex Kaufman trailed Democratic incumbent state Rep. Josh McLaurin by 56 percent to 44 percent. McLaurin defeated Kaufman in 2018.
In the 79th state House District, Democratic incumbent Mike Wilensky led Republican challenger Andrea Johnson by a margin of 59.6 percent to 40.4 percent and looked to become the only Jewish legislator in the General Assembly.
Before Election Day, some 3.91 million Georgians — more than half of the state’s 7.58 million registered voters — had voted, 31 percent by absentee ballot and 69 percent during in-person early voting. Early voting was 64 percent higher than in 2016.