Raphael Warnock won one of two Senate runoffs in Georgia early Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, bringing Democrats a seat closer to a Senate majority.
The AP called the race for Warnock over GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler at about 2 a.m. Eastern.
Results were continuing to come in from around the state, following campaigns that drew massive spending and worldwide attention because the runoffs are determining the balance of power in Washington.
With 97% of the expected vote total reported, Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff was leading Republican Sen. David Perdue by just 0.22 percentage point, according to data aggregated by the Associated Press.
Democrats need to triumph in both Georgia contests to take charge of the Senate. They would have control because a Democratic vice president, Kamala Harris, would cast tie-breaking votes.
Analysts described the Georgia contests as “about as close as you can get,” and there had been expectations of a long wait before winners are declared.
Betting markets and polls on Tuesday afternoon were signaling some confidence in the Democratic candidates’ prospects.
“It is looking like the Democratic campaign machine was more effective at driving turnout than the Republican one,” said Eurasia Group analyst Jon Lieber in a note late Tuesday.
Warnock delivered video-streamed remarks after midnight that contained some hallmarks of a victory speech. Loeffler also spoke, insisting she still had a path to victory.
Ossoff’s campaign manager said in a statement that “when all the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate.”
Republicans already control 50 seats following November’s elections and can remain the majority party in the 100-seat Senate by winning just one of the two Georgia races. They then would provide a check on policies backed by Democratic President-elect Joe Biden and the Democratic-run House of Representatives.
Polling stations closed at 7 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday after Georgians flocked to them to cast their ballots, though all voting didn’t stop in the state at that time. A court order, for example, extended voting for about half an hour at two polling locations in Chatham County, according to local news reports.
An AP survey of voters in Georgia’s runoffs found that about three-quarters of supporters of the state’s incumbent Republican senators said President-elect Joe Biden was not legitimately elected in November.
The runoff elections in Georgia have the potential to inject volatility into the stock market
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
closed modestly higher Tuesday, after suffering its biggest drop since late October on Monday.
were slipping early Wednesday.