It’ll be another month before Georgia voters know who’ll be going to Washington to represent them in the U.S. Senate. Georgia’s fiercely-fought Senate race is headed for a December 6 runoff.
For Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, it’s deja vu. This time, instead of facing former Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a runoff , the Atlanta minister will square off against football legend and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
With 97% of the precincts reported as of Wednesday morning, the two men were razor close, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s tally. Some 3 5,296 votes separated the two.
Warnock was leading 49.42% to Walker’s 48.52%. Libertarian challenger Chase Oliver received 2.07% of the 3.9 million votes cast in the race.
Georgia law requires a winning candidate to receive 50% of the vote plus one.
Charles Bullock III, the dean of Georgia’s political observers, said a runoff is imminent.
“The reason we got here is because about 10% of Republican voters couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Herschel Walker,” Bullock, political professor at the University of Georgia, told State Affairs. “They easily voted for Brian Kemp, and pretty much did so for the other Republicans down the line. But when they saw Herschel Walker, those Republicans said, ‘Yeah, I can’t go there because I don’t think he’s prepared or because a woman says, ‘I was married to the guy who beat me up’ and I’m not going to vote for somebody like that.’ He just had an awful lot of baggage.”
The 60-year-old Walker has been plagued by a caustic campaign that has dredged up his personal shortcomings and cast doubt on his ability to be an effective U.S. senator. Warnock has stumbled a few times during the campaign. His only debate against Walker proved underwhelming and at times gave Walker the edge. At one point, Warnock appeared stunned when Walker accused his Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, of evicting people from a housing complex the church owns.
In a race watched closely across the nation, both Walker and Warnock raised considerable sums. Walker has raised nearly $38 million, while Warnock has brought in a whopping $100 million-plus.
Nationwide, the top five Senate races spent more than $1 billion this midterm, according to OpenSecrets, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that tracks data on campaign finance and lobbying.
The nearly $271.5 million spent during the Georgia Senate race to date makes it the second most expensive Senate race behind the Pennsylvania Senate race, where $373.9 million has been spent.
Why It Matters
“This is the fight for control of one of the two national legislative bodies,” Bullock said of the Walker-Warnock race. “That’s a lot on the line.”
The race had been billed as one of the most consequential in this year’s midterm — one that would help determine which political party would control Congress. Last year, Warnock, along with fellow Sen. Jon Ossoff, won both Georgia Senate seats, handing control of Congress to the Democrats.
“It’s been an ugly race on both sides. I feel for the families on both sides,” said veteran public policy consultant Benita Cotton-Orr of Sky Valley. “No matter the result, we do need to remember that we have a lot of people in congress we didn’t think were up to the job and behind everyone of them is a team of dedicated staffers. It’s not even about the candidate we pick but who they have behind them. That matters a lot.”
Both men, already exhausted from mud-slinging campaigns, have a daunting task ahead of them over the next month. Bullock offered these strategies: First, get the people who voted Tuesday to come back in four weeks “because there’ll probably be a drop off in participation,” said Bullock. Then, “mobilize individuals who would likely have voted for you had they gone to the polls. Democrats did a good job of that in that special election [in January 2021].”
So, just when you thought you might have a quiet, election-free Thanksgiving holiday, Walker and Warnock will be coming to your home — via more campaign mailers and television ads.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Bullock said. “[But] I think most people would say ‘I just wish it was over’.”
In case you missed it: “The Tale of Two Men,” https://stateaffairs.com/ga/georgia-us-senate-candidate-walker-warnock-difference-profile/
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Contact Tammy Joyner at TAMMY@STATEAFFAIRS.COM or on Twitter @LVJOYNER.
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