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Democrats on brink of US Senate control; party wins one Georgia race, leading in second

Raphael Warnock beats Kelly Loeffler; Jon Ossoff claims victory over David Purdue with lead of about 16,000 votes

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Raphael Warnock, a Baptist preacher from the historic church of Martin Luther King Jr, will be the first Black senator in the history of the deep South state of Georgia.

Atlanta

DEMOCRATS claim they have won two Senate seats in run-off elections in Georgia after Jon Ossoff claimed victory over Republican David Perdue with a lead of about 16,000 votes in a race that was still too close for major news organisations to call.

Democrat Raphael Warnock earlier defeated Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler in one of the run-off races, reported the Associated Press.

"Whether you were for me or against me, I will be for you in the US Senate," Mr Ossoff said in an online statement.

In his race, some of the outstanding votes yet to be counted are coming from heavily Democrat precincts. But it could take days to get the final tally as 17,000 military and overseas ballots can still be counted as late as Friday, and some domestic absentee ballots were still out. The narrow results will almost certainly spark legal challenges or recounts that also could delay a final determination of Senate control.

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Two Democratic victories in Georgia would narrowly flip control of the Senate to Democrats. The chamber would be split 50-50 between Republicans and the Democratic caucus, with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.

Senate control, paired with the Democrats' narrow majority in the House, would give Democratic

President-elect Joe Biden a unified US government and could smooth the path for his nominations and some major legislation.

Mr Warnock, a Baptist preacher from the historic church of Martin Luther King Jr, beat Ms Loeffler to become the first Black senator in the history of the deep South state.

Mr Ossoff is a documentary filmmaker who, at 33, would become the Senate's youngest member.

The results were a repudiation of outgoing President Donald Trump in a state his Republicans have controlled for decades.

Mr Trump campaigned for both Republicans in Georgia on Monday.

But his support was overshadowed by the two months he has spent trying to subvert his own presidential election loss with false accusations of fraud, including attacks on Republican officials in the state.

His relentless but flailing efforts to overturn the election in Georgia and nationally will move to Congress on Wednesday, when Vice-President Mike Pence presides over the counting of electoral votes to certify Mr Biden's victory. Mr Trump's supporters plan to rally in the streets of Washington.

The president has repeatedly called on Mr Pence to throw out the results in states he narrowly lost, although the vice-president has no authority to do so.

Mr Trump's attacks on the election split his party and drew condemnation from critics who accused him of undermining democracy. Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and a top official in the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, told CNN that if Democrats won, the losses would "fall squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since Nov 3."

The victory by Mr Warnock, a preacher at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, is legendary in Georgia because of its role in the civil rights movement under King. It is the first win by a Democrat in a US Senate race in the state in 20 years.

The result underscored the state's political transformation in recent years, made evident by Mr Biden's narrow statewide win over Mr Trump in the Nov 3 election - the first victory for a Democratic presidential candidate in Georgia since 1992.

"We were told that we couldn't win this election," Mr Warnock told supporters in a livestream message before he was projected the winner. "But tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible. I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election."

The critical races drew an estimated 4.5 million voters - a record for a runoff - along with nearly half a billion dollars in advertising spending since Nov 3, as well as visits on Monday by Mr Trump and Mr Biden. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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