Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, was fighting for his political life on Saturday in a contest that could determine which party controls the Senate, as his re-election bid headed to a January runoff against Jon Ossoff, his Democratic challenger.
Mr. Perdue had a razor-thin lead over Mr. Ossoff in a contest that demonstrated Democrats’ emerging strength in what was once a Republican stronghold in the Deep South. Neither candidate claimed a majority of votes amid a protracted count, according to The Associated Press.
The inconclusive result set up a drastic rematch between Mr. Perdue and Mr. Ossoff on Jan. 5, and thrust Georgia into the center of the nation’s political fray as Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared on track to win the White House. The state had already been scheduled to decide the fate of its other Senate seat in a special-election runoff between the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, on the same day. That makes it nearly certain that the twin Georgia races will determine which party controls the chamber just two weeks before the next presidential inauguration.
“Change has come to Georgia,” Mr. Ossoff said at a rally on Friday, “and Georgia is a part of the change coming to America.”
If Mr. Biden wins the White House and Democrats take both of Georgia’s seats, they would draw the Senate to a 50-50 tie, effectively taking control of the chamber, given the vice president’s power to cast tiebreaking votes. But that is a tall order in a state with deep conservative roots, and Republicans felt reasonably confident they could hang onto at least one of the seats needed to deny Democrats the majority.
Two other Senate races, in North Carolina and in Alaska, had not yet been called. But Republicans were leading in both and expected to win, putting them at 50 seats to the Democrats’ 48.