(JTA) — Georgia appears poised to send a Jew and an African American to the U.S. Senate for the first time — and to shift control of the Senate to Democrats at a pivotal moment.
Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at the Atlanta church made famous by Martin Luther King, was declared the winner of his race early Thursday morning, beating out Kelly Loeffler. Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old Jewish documentarian who was mentored by the late civil rights icon John Lewis, held a narrow lead over incumbent David Purdue.
Hanging in the balance is the Senate and the possibility of President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, helming a one-party government: If Ossoff and Warnock both win, the Senate will be split 50-50 and the tie-breaking vote will go to Vice President Kamala Harris. Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives.
Warnock and Ossoff have campaigned together and have often invoked, in ads and in stump speeches, the Black-Jewish alliance that characterized America’s civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Issues of Jewish significance figured into the races. Warnock has previously criticized Israel in sermons, and Loeffler and others called attention to those comments to argue that he would not be an ally to American Jews in the Senate. He said he would be a stalwart supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and Jewish Democratic groups lobbied hard for his election.
Meanwhile, Loeffler has been photographed with white supremacists, a fact that Ossoff called attention to in a notable appearance on Fox News this week. She subsequently disavowed those relationships but has stood by her new friendship with a newly elected Georgia congresswoman who is identified with QAnon, the conspiracy movement laced with anti-Semitic themes.
During the general election, Perdue ran Facebook ads depicting Ossoff with a nose digitally altered to seem larger, which Ossoff said was anti-Semitic — including during an attention-grabbing debate exchange this fall. Perdue pulled the ads but did not apologize for them.
Perdue and Loeffler also appeared to have been damaged by their close embrace of President Donald Trump, who has refused to accept his loss to Biden and who has repeatedly called into question the integrity of the U.S. elections system, without citing evidence. Loeffler had said she would object to certification of the election results, due to take place in Congress today.