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Warnock defeats Loeffler in Georgia Senate runoff

Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockWhy the Democrats need Joe Manchin Bipartisan senators introduce bill to protect small businesses from cyberattacks MLB calls lawsuit over All-Star Game 'political theatrics' MORE on Wednesday morning was projected to have defeated Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerHerschel Walker skips Georgia's GOP convention Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 MORE (R) in their Senate runoff in Georgia, bringing the Democrats within reach of the majority in the upper chamber.

NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN called the race for Warnock shortly before 2 a.m. on Wednesday. The Associated Press called it at 2 a.m. Fox News followed suit shortly before 2:30 a.m.

Warnock, who is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, will be the first African American to represent Georgia in the Senate. 

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The pastor declared victory in a video address after midnight on Wednesday. 

“We were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible,” Warnock said. “So Georgia, I am honored by the faith that you have shown in me and I promise you this tonight: I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election." 

Warnock will be up for reelection in 2022 because the race was a special election to finish the remainder of retired Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler group targets Democrats with billboards around baseball stadium Warnock raises nearly M since January victory Five big takeaways on Georgia's new election law MORE's (R) term.

Loeffler showed no signs of conceding the race just after midnight Wednesday, calling for every vote to be counted. 

"It’s worth it for this election to last into tomorrow. We’re going to make sure that every vote is counted," she said prior to the race being called. "We have a path to victory and we're staying on it."

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Neither Loeffler nor Warnock reached the 50 percent threshold needed to win the general election in November, sending the race into a runoff. Warnock, who benefited from then-Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsGeorgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor The Hill's Morning Report - Census winners and losers; House GOP huddles MORE (R-Ga.) running in the nonpartisan blanket primary alongside Loeffler, garnered roughly 33 percent of the vote at that time. Loeffler brought in around 26 percent.

However, with the Republican side consolidated, polls showed a tight race leading up to Tuesday. The RealClearPolitics polling average showed Warnock leading by just 1.8 percentage points on the Monday before the runoff.

Warnock criticized Loeffler over her initial lack of support for the $2,000 stimulus checks for Congress's coronavirus relief package in the final weeks of the campaign.

"Billionaire @KLoeffler thinks $600 will cover your rent, groceries, and hospital bills," Warnock tweeted last month.

Loeffler eventually came out in support of the checks after President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE hit Congress for going with $600 stimulus checks instead of $2,000. But Warnock still went after Loeffler for not pushing hard enough for a vote on the checks.

"Instead of flying back to Washington, D.C., and insisting that they put up the stimulus [bill] for a vote, Kelly Loeffler was so busy trying to keep her job that she's not doing her job," Warnock said at a rally on Riverdale, Ga., on Monday.