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Tuesday June 15th, 2021 6:34AM

The Latest: Georgia secretary of state's office evacuated

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the Senate runoffs in Georgia (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

Georgia’s secretary of state and his staff have evacuated their offices at the state Capitol as armed protesters gathered outside.

Gabriel Sterling, a top elections official, said Wednesday that it was an internal decision made by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to have his team leave.

“We saw stuff happening at the Georgia Capitol and said we should not be around here, we should not be a spark,” Sterling told The Associated Press.

About 100 protesters gathered at the state Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday to protest President Donald Trump’s election loss. Some were armed with long guns.

Trump has focused much of his ire on Raffensperger in the weeks following his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia by about 12,000 votes.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE GEORGIA SENATE ELECTIONS

Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Republican Kelly Loeffler lost to Democrat Raphael Warnock, while Republican David Perdue was challenged by Democrat Jon Ossoff. Democrats must win both seats to take control of the Senate.

Read more:

— A clash of two closely matched coalitions

— Georgia proves its status as a two-party battleground

— A tense night for news organizations

— The Republican Party faces a defining moment

— Trump-appointed US attorney resigns in Georgia

___

HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

12:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump seems to be acknowledging Republicans losses in the two Senate runoff elections in Georgia even before admitting his own defeat in the state on Nov. 3.

Trump used a rally of supporters in Washington to rail against what he described as “weak Republicans.” But he singled out the two GOP senate candidates in Georgia, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, for praise. Trump said “they fought a good race, never had a shot.”

Democrat Raphael Warnock beat Loeffler on Tuesday, becoming the first Black senator in his state’s history. And Democrat Jon Ossoff is holding onto his lead over Perdue, but it’s too early to call that race. An Ossoff victory would give Democrats control of the Senate.

At the rally, Trump complained that it was a mistake for Congress to move forward with a $600 check for most Americans as part of a COVID-19 relief package, instead of his preferred $2,000 in aid.

Ossoff and Warnock emphasized in the final days of the Senate races that their victories would allow a Democrat-run Senate to provide $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans.

Trump says of the $2,000 checks: “No. 1, it’s the right thing to do, but how does that play politically? I think it’s the primary reason, one of the primary reasons,” for Tuesday’s results.

___

11:30 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden is heralding a Democratic victory in at least one of Georgia’s two U.S. Senate runoffs as part of “a resounding message,” as well as good news for his agenda.

Biden in a statement Wednesday congratulated Rev. Raphael Warnock on his “groundbreaking win” over Republican Kelly Loeffler, noting he was “hopeful” that fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff would also win his race.

Biden, the first Democrat in decades to win Georgia’s electoral votes, campaigned several times for the Senate candidates, whose performances affect his legislative agenda’s success. Ossoff’s victory would mean a 50-50 Senate split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote.

Ossoff held a small lead over Republican David Perdue as of Wednesday morning, though it was too early to call the race. Under Georgia law, a trailing candidate may request a recount when the margin of an election is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage points.

___

8:40 a.m.

U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff is claiming victory in his race against Republican David Perdue, thanking Georgians for “electing me to serve you.”

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in the race between Ossoff and Perdue, which is too early to call.

Ossoff made the comments early Wednesday in a speech on social media. He said the campaign has been about health, jobs and justice for Georgians.

He added that he intends to serve all people in the state.

Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections will decide control of the U.S. Senate. In the other race, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler.

___

8 a.m.

Hours after winning one of Georgia’s high-stakes runoffs, The Rev. Raphael Warnock says people in his state “are feeling a sense of hope this morning.”

Speaking in a round of morning television interviews, Warnock noted that he grew up in public housing as one of 12 children and was the first in his family to attend college. He said his victory “pushes against the grain of so many expectations, but this is America and I want some young person who’s watching this to know anything’s possible.”

Georgia is now in “an incredible place when you think of the arc of our history,” he said.

“This is the reversal of the old southern strategy that sought to divide people,” Warnock said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “In this moment we’ve got to bring people together to do the hard work and I look forward to doing that.”

He told NBC’s “Today” that “we can ill-afford to be divided. And I hope to be the pastor among peers in the United States Senate to appeal to the better angels of our nature and to remind us that Dr. King was right, we’re tied of a single garment of destiny.”

Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. The other race for U.S. Senate in Georgia — that one between incumbent GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff — remained too early to call early Wednesday.

__

2:25 a.m.

The race for U.S. Senate in Georgia between incumbent GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff is too early to call.

As of 2:15 a.m. Wednesday, Ossoff had a lead of 9,527 votes out of nearly 4.4 million counted, or a margin of less than 0.2 percentage points.

There were still some mail ballots and in-person early votes left to be counted statewide, the majority of which are in Democratic-leaning counties.

Under Georgia law, a trailing candidate may request a recount when the margin of an election is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage points.

The Perdue-Ossoff race was one of two runoff elections that Georgia held Tuesday. In the other election, Democrat Raphael Warnock unseated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

The races will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Democrats must win both seats to take power, while Republicans only need one to keep Mitch McConnell as majority leader.

__

2 a.m.

Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock has won his Senate runoff election.

Warnock, who served as pastor for the same Atlanta church where slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. grew up and preached, becomes the first Black senator elected in Georgia.

The Tuesday victory gives Democrats a chance to seize control of the Senate for the opening of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency. Democrats need to win both of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections to claim the Senate majority. The contest between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican David Perdue remains too early to call.

Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago and had the strong support of outgoing President Donald Trump.

The Republican president on the eve of the election called on Georgia Republicans to swarm to the polls for the Republican Senate candidates, even as he warned without evidence of the prospect of widespread voter fraud.

Biden held his own rally Monday to urge his coalition to turn out for the Democratic candidates.

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