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Democrat Warnock projected to win in Georgia runoff election; Republican Perdue falls behind Ossoff with razor-thin margin

The runoff elections will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate

Jon Ossoff photo (top left): Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images; Rev. Raphael Warnock photo (bottom left): Megan Varner/Getty Images; David Perdue photo (top right): Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images; Kelly Loeffler photo (bottom right): Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Georgia runoff election that will decide the partisan fate of the U.S. Senate tipped toward the Democratic challengers late Tuesday evening.

With 98% of the vote counted, Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler garnered 49.5% of the vote, falling short of the 50.5% of the vote for Democrat challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock.

NBC News and the Decision Desk projected Warnock the winner of that election runoff.

Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff garnered 50% of the vote with a margin of a few thousand votes over Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue, who also received 50% of the vote.

Democrats celebrated in anticipation of votes that were left to be counted from heavily Democratic districts.

Chatham County shenanigans

At one point in the evening it was reported that the vote counting in Chatham County had halted and that officials had gone home for the night.

Later, that report was clarified by Georgia's statewide voting implementation manager Gabriel Sterling, who said that officials counted the votes they had received but that some absentee votes were still outstanding.

The candidates speak

Sen. Loeffler addressed a crowd of supporters and encouraged them despite the election being too close to call.

"It's worth it for this election to last into tomorrow. We're gonna make sure every vote is counted, every legal count will be counted, and I'm not going to stop working!" Loeffler said to a cheering crowd.

Warnock also addressed the election in a live videoconference and appeared to claim victory.

"We were told that we couldn't win this election," said Warnock. "But tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible. May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold to the American Dream."

The Ossoff campaign released a statement late into Wednesday morning predicting a victory for the Democratic challenger.

"When all the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate. The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon's performance has been dominant," the campaign statement said.

If Democrats are able to win both seats of the runoff election, they would gain 50 seats in the U.S. Senate. Any vote split evenly in the Senate would be decided by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Here's more about the runoff election Tuesday evening:

CBS News Special Report: Warnock takes lead over Loeffler; Ossoff-Perdue race a toss-up www.youtube.com

This story has been updated.

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