Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won re-election to the U.S. Senate and defeated his Republican challenger and former professional football player Herschel Walker in the Dec. 6 Georgia Senate runoff race.
With this win, Warnock will now be able to serve a full six-year term, and Democrats will now have an outright majority of 51 Senate seats to 49 for Republicans.
The runoff came as a result of neither Warnock nor Walker receiving the 50 percent of the vote needed to be declared the winner in a Senate race in Georgia, in the general election during the 2022 Midterms on Nov. 8.
This is also the fourth time Warnock has gone to an election in the last two years, either from a general or a runoff election. The first time was when he had the most votes for Senate in the 2020 general election race but had to go to runoff with Republican Kelly Loeffler, who he defeated decisively on Jan. 5, 2021. In November, Sen. Warnock won more votes than Walker but once again it had to go to a runoff leading to this latest win on Tuesday.
Roughly 3.5 million Georgians voted compared to 3.9 million in November. Throughout the night, Warnock and Walker traded leads often as new batches of votes were coming in, repeating how the general election night unfolded. Warnock won with 51 percent of the vote and 1.8 million to Walker’s 48 percent and 1.7 million.
“After a hard-fought campaign, you’ve got me for six more years,” Warnock said in his victory speech, thanking voters and those who put in the hard work.
Warnock gave tribute to his mother in his speech.
“But she grew up in the 1950s, in Waycross, Georgia, picking somebody else’s cotton and somebody else’s tobacco. But tonight she helped pick her youngest son to be a United States senator,” he said.
Warnock was a longtime civic leader in the state of Georgia having been a senior pastor with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta since 2005.
Walker gave his concession speech not too long after the projections of Warnock’s win were made by major news outlets. It was notable that he chose not to fight the results and formally conceded as opposed to other Trump candidates in recent elections who have followed Trump’s election denialism such as Republican Kari Lake who lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs in Arizona’s gubernatorial race in the general election and has yet to officially concede the race, declaring she is still fighting the results.
“I thank you so much. As I said, you can’t blame no one because I want you to continue to believe in this country, believe in our elected officials,” he said.
This was the final contestant of the newsworthy and unprecedented, in many ways, 2022 Midterm elections. The win by Warnock and defeat of Walker dealt a final blow to Republicans coming off of a significantly underwhelming Midterms performance. Walker’s loss was also another nail in the coffin of Trump-picked candidates who lost their major races.
That list of candidates includes races for the Senate, Governor and Secretary of State like Lake and Mark Finchem in Arizona, Tudor Dixon and Kristin Karamo in Michigan, Blake Masters and Jim Marchant in Nevada, Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, etc.
Warnock jumped out to a huge lead early in the night as early in person and mail in votes statewide were being counted, which has consistently leaned heavily Democratic in recent election cycles, spurred as a result of the Covid pandemic. As election day vote came in, Warnock’s lead narrowed til Walker overtook it. A “seesaw” between the candidates of who had the lead took place before the remaining largest batches of election day votes were coming in from the larger counties where Warnock was handedly winning, and it became clear he would be the victor.
Warnock won the top six counties with the largest populations, as Democratic candidates usually do, including Fulton County, which has the Atlanta metro area, as well as the Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb Counties in the state.
Various controversies and scandals followed Walker’s campaign including allegations of domestic abuse, lying about his record and claims he paid for abortions for two ex-girlfriends despite having expressed support for national ban on abortion with exceptions. Days ago, yet another accusation of abuse was made by a former girlfriend of Walker, Cheryl Parsa.
Lauren Robinson, a Howard University criminology senior and resident of Georgia who voted via mail-in-ballot, said before the result that Georgians like her needed to do everything in their power “keep Herschel Walker away from the Senate.”
“He’s an abuser, a pathological liar, and overall dangerously incompetent. The man can barely form a coherent sentence, and I would be so embarrassed to be represented by him on the national stage. Reverend Warnock, a man of integrity and intelligence, has to win. It’s imperative,” she said.
Robinson also pointed out the attacks on democracy saying “It’s incumbent upon all of us to do our part to protect it by voting for pro-democracy and rule of law candidates.”
Kesi Felton, a Howard alum living in Georgia who casted her ballot in Cobb County, said “I think it’s telling that Sen. Warnock is having to defend his position against him (Walker), mainly because it shows how a tactic of the Republican Party in this instance is to support a Black candidate as a smokescreen for policy stances that can and do perpetuate white supremacy.”
Though Walker was not an outspoken election denier like other candidates, he has not expressly distanced himself from those claims in the past.
According to CNN polling leading up to the race, there was a wide gap between how Walker and Warnock voters felt about their candidate, as Warnock voters were more enthusiastic.
Even with this result of high turnout, many on social media acknowledged that voter suppression efforts were still a reality in Georgia with bills like S.B. 202. From Republicans. Sen. Warnock addressed this in his speech.
“..just because people endured long lines that wrapped around buildings…doesn’t mean that voter suppression does not exist. It simply means that you, the people, have decided that your voices will not be silenced,” he said.
This win by Warnock also further cements Georgia as a purple state and firmly a battleground compared to where it was just a couple of years ago. Despite her loss in the gubernatorial race against Republican incumbent Brian Kemp in November, many made sure to credit Stacey Abrams who in similar fashion helped deliver the state to President Biden in the 2020 presidential election, the first time the state went for a blue president since 1992.
Biden also becomes the first president since 1934 to see every Senator in his party win re-election.
With the outright majority Democrats now have in the Senate, they will not have to deal with a power sharing agreement with Republicans, among other benefits of a 51-49 majority.
While Democrats increased their majority in the Senate from 50 to 51, as Republicans were still able to very narrowly take the House, gridlock can be expected in terms of being able to pass legislation or pieces of Biden’s agenda until at least the next election cycle in 2024.
However, Democrats are celebrating this big win.
“Are you ready, Georgia? I’m ready to stand up for workers, to stand up for women, to stand up for our children. I’m ready to build a stronger Georgia. God bless you. Keep the faith and keep looking up,” Warnock said.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith