Note: Updated to reflect more recent vote totals and declaration of second runoff.

This story also appeared in Georgia Recorder

A second U.S. Senate race in Georgia will go to a runoff and further ratchet up the focus on a state that could decide which party controls the chamber.  

Republican Sen. David Perdue’s lead over Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff has continued to dwindle as local election officials process ballots. But as of Saturday noon, Perdue had 49.78% of the vote, below the 50% plus one vote needed to win reelection outright.

“There is one thing we know for sure: Senator David Perdue will be re-elected to the U.S. Senate and Republicans will defend the majority,” Perdue’s campaign manager, Ben Fry, said in a statement Thursday. “Perdue will finish this election in first place with substantially more votes than his Democrat opponent.

“If overtime is required when all of the votes have been counted, we’re ready, and we will win. It is clear that more Georgians believe that David Perdue’s positive vision for the future direction of our country is better than Chuck Schumer’s radical, socialist agenda,” Fry said.

Ossoff’s campaign quickly issued its own statement, calling a runoff likely.

“The votes are still being counted, but we are confident that Jon Ossoff’s historic performance in Georgia has forced Senator David Perdue to continue defending his indefensible record of unemployment, disease, and corruption,” Ossoff’s campaign manager, Ellen Foster, said in a statement.

“When a runoff is called and held in January, Georgians are going to send Jon to the Senate to defend their health care and put the interests of working families and small businesses ahead of corporate lobbyists. Georgians are sick and tired of the endless failure, incompetence, and corruption of Senator Perdue and Donald Trump.”

Already, Georgians are guaranteed at least one U.S. Senate runoff on Jan. 5: Democrat Raphael Warnock and sitting Sen. Kelly Loeffler were the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s election. Loeffler was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down because of his declining health late last year. The winner of the runoff will be on the ballot again in 2022.

This isn’t Ossoff’s first time in the national spotlight. His upstart campaign in 2017 for an open U.S. House seat to represent the north Atlanta suburbs – which he launched with a call to “make Trump furious” – was seen as an early referendum on President Donald Trump’s surprising victory in 2016.

Ossoff was the frontrunner in a jungle primary but ultimately lost by less than 4 points to Karen Handel, who only served one term before losing to now Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath. Handel just lost her bid to make McBath a one-term congresswoman.  

“There’s only one candidate in this race who has ever lost a runoff, and it isn’t David Perdue,” Fry said in his statement, another sign Perdue’s campaign is gearing back up to return to the campaign trail. 

This story comes through a news partnership with Georgia Recorder.

Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing...