Senate officially turns blue with 4 historic firsts

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Three new senators, sworn in by a new Senate president.

The Democrats formally gained a majority in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday afternoon, thanks to four historic firsts.

With the November elections and the Georgia Senate runoffs in January, Democrats gained a net of three new Senate seats, bringing the chamber to a 50 Democrat, 50 Republican tie. With a Democratic vice president now presiding over the body and three Democrats sworn in on Wednesday, Democrats now hold a majority for the first time since January 2015.

The new majority is courtesy of:

Raphael Warnock

Sen. Raphael Warnock became the first Black senator to represent Georgia, after winning a special election for the final two years of former Sen. Johnny Isakson's (R) unexpired term.

Warnock, the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a Jan. 5 runoff. Loeffler, a wealthy former financial services executive, had been appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in December 2019 to temporarily fill the vacancy.

Despite a series of racist attacks from Loeffler and her allies, Warnock won on a message of making health care more affordable, strengthening the economy, protecting voting rights, reforming criminal justice, and expanding educational opportunities for every American.

Jon Ossoff

Sen. Jon Ossoff has made history as the first Jewish senator from the state of Georgia, the first Jewish senator from a southern state since the 1880s — and, according to the Washington Post, the first Jew to hold statewide public office in a southern state since 1974.

Ossoff, a former investigative journalist, was sworn in on a book of Hebrew scripture previously owned by a close friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rabbi Jacob Rothschild.

Ossoff was elected in a close race against Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue, whose time in office was plagued by reports of alleged insider trading. Perdue failed to gain the majority vote in the Nov. 3 general election and was defeated in the Jan. 5 runoff by Ossoff.

The Perdue campaign was slammed for the release of an offensive ad on social media that elongated Ossoff’s nose, perpetuating common antisemitic tropes.

Alex Padilla

Sen. Alex Padilla became the first Latino senator to represent California, after being appointed to the seat by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Padilla, a former Los Angeles City Council member, California state senator, and California secretary of state, will replace Kamala Harris, who resigned Tuesday — a day before being inaugurated as vice president of the United States.

He will serve the remaining two years of her unexpired term.

Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris, in her new role as president of the Senate, swore in the three new senators.

Harris, the first woman, first Black person, and first Asian American to hold the position, will now have the power to preside over Senate debates and break and ties.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.