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Jon Ossoff Wins Georgia's Democratic Senate Primary

Jon Ossoff leaves a campaign office during a 2017 race after meeting with supporters in Marietta, Ga. Ossoff will face Republican Sen. David Perdue in November.
David Goldman
Jon Ossoff leaves a campaign office during a 2017 race after meeting with supporters in Marietta, Ga. Ossoff will face Republican Sen. David Perdue in November.

Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET

Jon Ossoff has won Georgia's Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, The Associated Press projects.

Votes continued to be counted Wednesday across Georgia following its Tuesday primary, which was plagued with long lines and voting machine issues.

Ossoff had 50.5% of the vote, with 97% of precincts reporting. Georgia's election law requires that a candidate receive a majority of votes to secure a primary nomination. Ossoff finished far ahead of the other six Democratic candidates. He will face Republican Sen. David Perdue in November.

As the vote count languished earlier Wednesday, Ossoff pledged to "fight to ensure that every single vote is counted."

"There are hundreds of thousands of votes that remain to be counted. So until those votes are counted, it's not the time to talk about outcomes," he said on a call then.

While much of the election was conducted by mail, in-person voting on Tuesday sufferedmajor logistical problems and long lines across the state, which has raised concerns over preparations for Election Day in November.

Teresa Tomlinson, former mayor of Columbus, Ga., trailed Ossoff in second place, and she was closely followed by Sarah Riggs Amico, a former nominee for Georgia lieutenant governor.

Ossoff, Tomlinson and Amico were three of seven Democrats vying for the primary nomination, including Maya Dillard Smith, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

Ossoff had sharp criticism for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after Raffensperger pledged to launch investigations into the predominantly Democratic counties of DeKalb and Fulton following the election delays. Fulton County encompasses the city of Atlanta. Part of Atlanta is also in neighboring DeKalb County. Georgia Republican State House Speaker David Ralston echoed a similar sentiment, pushing for a committee in the state Legislature to investigate.

"I have to say that I was particularly disgusted that our secretary of state refused to take any personal responsibility for a debacle that was clear to anybody watching it," Ossoff told reporters. "What happened yesterday was an outrage."

In 2017, Ossoff ran for the U.S. House in a special election to fill the seat in Georgia's 6th Congressional District. He fell short of winning a majority by under 2 percentage points in the spring primary and went on to lose to Republican Karen Handel in a runoff that summer. The district, located in the Atlanta metro area, had been GOP-controlled fornearly 40 years and went Democratic in 2018.

The special election in 2017 sawincreased turnout for an off-year election and remains the most expensive House race ever recorded. While Ossoff's national name recognition is high, he faced criticism during this year's Senate primary campaign over his resume.

Ossoff heads a company that produces investigative documentaries and has previously been a congressional staffer, though he has never held elected office.

Tomlinson, who touted her governing experience as a two-term mayor and public safety director in her city,attacked Ossoff's candidacy last month during a primary debate, also highlighting a Republican poll that found Perdue ahead of Ossoff.

"How can we afford to make you our nominee when you lack public service experience, couldn't win your home district and have very little statewide appeal?" Tomlinson asked.

Georgia's 2020 state and congressional primaries were originally slated for May 19, then postponed to June 9 due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

In aninterview with NPR in late April, Ossoff characterized campaigning during the pandemic as a challenge but added it "pales in comparison to what so many people are going through."

Georgia is the only state in the country with two Senate elections this year. In addition to the Perdue race, a special election is planned for November to fill former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat since he retired in the summer of 2019 due to health challenges.

Republican Kelly Loeffler wasappointed to fill the seat until the special election, and she is being challenged within her own party by Rep. Doug Collins, an ally of President Trump's. The leading Democrat in the race is the Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

Followingsignificantly high turnout in the 2018 midterms, Georgia remains a key state for both Republicans and Democrats, and neither Senate seat is considered safe for Republicans.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan organization that tracks state and federal elections, has classified both Senate elections asRepublican-leaning races, instead of likely or solid to go Republican, a notable distinction for a state that hasn't elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senatein 20 years.

Ossoff received endorsements fromseveralGeorgialeaders, includingRep. John Lewis, who also supported him during his 2017 run.

If elected, Ossoff, 33, would be the youngest member of the U.S. Senate and also the youngest electedsince 1981 when former Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., took office at age 32.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.