Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock Defeats Republican Herschel Walker In Georgia Runoff

(Megan Varner/Getty Images) (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
Font Size:

Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in Georgia’s Tuesday runoff election, ensuring that Democrats will have full control of the upper chamber at the beginning of the 118th Congress.

With 85% of votes counted, Warnock received 50.1% support, while Walker garnered 49.9%. Polls closed at 7 p.m., and several elections analysts called the race before 10 p.m. Eastern time. Several polls had shown Warnock leading Walker, although most showed the two candidates running within the margin of error. At the time the race was called, outstanding ballots were primarily from the deep blue Atlanta metropolitan area.

Georgia election law requires a runoff if no candidate crosses 50% support in the general election. Warnock outran Walker in the November race, but the presence of Libertarian Chase Oliver on the ballot ensured that both finished below the 50% threshold. (RELATED: The Stacey Abrams Political Machine Is Failing In Georgia’s Runoff)

Warnock’s victory gives Democrats a greater measure of control over the upper chamber. They will fully control committees, ensuring that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York will not have to use discharge petitions to move stalled legislation and nominees to the Senate floor. The vote also diminishes the power of moderate senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom were frequently at odds during the 117th Congress with the rest of the Democratic Party on issues like the filibuster and green energy.

Although national Republicans descended on the state to support Walker, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) faced criticism from some conservatives for its fundraising practices. Although the NRSC and chairman Rick Scott of Florida marketed emails as going to support Walker, Scott and the NRSC actually collected more than 90% of funds in some cases.

Both candidates dealt with scandals throughout the race. Two women claimed that Walker paid for them to have abortions, and the Republican’s son accused him of domestic violence. The Washington Free Beacon reported that Warnock’s church attempted to evict tenants from a low-income apartment complex it runs, and a watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against the incumbent.

As a result, Walker in particular struggled with approval ratings. Thirty-nine percent of Georgians viewed the Republican favorably, a CNN poll found, compared with 52% who viewed him unfavorably. Fifty percent of Georgians viewed Warnock favorably, and 45% viewed the incumbent unfavorably.