FILE - Georgia U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler

Businesswoman Kelly Loeffler smiles while being introduced by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp as his pick to fill Georgia's vacant U.S. Senate seat at the Georgia State Capitol.

(The Center Square) – Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler conceded her U.S. Senate special election runoff Thursday to Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.

In a video statement, Loeffler said she called Warnock on Thursday to congratulate him and wish him well.

"I want to thank every Georgian and every single American who believed in me and our campaign," Loeffler said. "We accomplished so much in a short time. ... Unfortunately, we came up slightly short in the runoff election."

Warnock earned 50.91% of the vote, beating Loeffler by 81,260 votes in a race where nearly 4.5 million votes were cast. The Associated Press had called the race for Warnock at 2 a.m. EST Wednesday.

"Rest assured the fight to advance the American dream is far from over," Loeffler said. "The fight to protect conservative values is far from over, and the fight against socialism and the radical agenda of the left is very far from over. I fully intend to stay in this fight for freedom, for our values and for the future of this great country."

Loeffler, who was appointed to retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's vacant seat in December 2019, and Warnock emerged from a pack of 21 candidates in the general election, where Warnock won 32.9% of the vote compared with Loeffler's 25.91%.

Warnock is a senior pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached. He will be the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia.

Georgia's second U.S. Senate runoff election between Republican David Perdue, whose U.S. Senate term expired Sunday, and Democrat Jon Ossoff was called for Ossoff by the AP at 4:16 p.m. EST Wednesday.

Perdue, however, has not conceded the race.

Ossoff holds a 43,246-vote lead over Perdue, 50.49% to 49.51%, in a race that also had nearly 4.5 million votes cast.

"I humbly thank the people of Georgia, who have entrusted me with the representation of our great state in the U.S. Senate," Ossoff tweeted Thursday night. "My team is working diligently on the transition so we can begin to deliver results immediately upon taking office."

The Perdue campaign said early Wednesday morning it will "exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted."

"This is an exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate and the voices of Georgians are heard," Perdue's campaign said.

If Ossoff's lead holds, Democrats will gain control of the U.S. Senate with a 50-50 split in the chamber and Democrat and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaker vote. Two independent senators caucus with the Democrats.

Democrats already hold the majority in the U.S. House.

Regional Editor

Jason Schaumburg is an award-winning, veteran editor who has been a journalist for more than 20 years. He spent a decade as the top editor in three northern Illinois newsrooms for Shaw Media and Pioneer Press.