Updated Dec 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

What to know about Georgia's Senate runoff

Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock

Photos: Nicole Craine/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While most of the country is done with an election season that saw Democrats outperform expectations, a pivotal race is still outstanding: the Senate runoff between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Republican Herschel Walker.

Driving the news: Nearly 2 million Georgians had cast their ballot early or absentee ahead of the Dec. 6 election. The state set a new record for single-day early turnout on Friday, breaking prior records set Monday and Tuesday.

  • Absentee ballots must be received by Election Day, per the state's election rules.
  • For early in-person voting, the state saw high turnout and long lines in some areas.

Of note: Nearly 4 million Georgians voted in the November general election when there were three weeks of early voting — instead of just one in the four-week runoff.

Why it matters: A 51-seat majority for Democrats would bolster their ability to move judicial nominations through the Senate confirmation process — and ease the procedural burden of a 50-50 Senate. Both parties are eager for the additional seat and its six-year term.

  • National groups are continuing to pour millions into the contest.

Context: Warnock and Democratic groups won a battle last week over the legality of early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Republican groups had appealed to try to block voting on the extra day — which saw more than 70,000 Georgians cast their votes across nearly 30 counties.

  • Nearly 90,000 cast ballots on Sunday.

The intrigue: While Walker's campaign message has remained similar to the general election, he has a valuable new surrogate in the runoff: Gov. Brian Kemp. Kemp campaigned for the first time alongside Walker in mid-November, after winning re-election by nearly 8 points.

  • While the two avoided each other in the general election, during the runoff Kemp is featured in campaign mailers and two ads for Walker. He also lent his get-out-the-vote infrastructure to the former pro football star, by way of $2 million in funding from the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund.

Meanwhile: Warnock has been campaigning directly to the estimated 200,000 Georgians who voted for both the Democrat and Kemp in November. That's way up from the 20,000 Georgians who split their tickets in the 2021 Senate runoffs.

Flashback: Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, took office following the state's twin high-profile Senate runoffs in January 2021, when he and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) flipped two Republican-held seats.

  • He competed in a special election in 2020 for the two years remaining in the late Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)'s term against the Kemp-appointed former Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
  • The nationally watched runoffs in 2021 handed a razor-thin majority in the Senate to Democrats and gave the party full control of Congress during the first two years of President Biden's term.

Go deeper: Herschel Walker claims Texas home as primary residence

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional developments.

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