Dec 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Raphael Warnock defeats Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate runoff

Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has fended off a challenge from Republican Herschel Walker in a December runoff, clinching a full term in the chamber, the AP reported.

Why it matters: Warnock’s victory expands Democrats’ Senate majority to 51 seats, bolstering their ability to move judicial nominations through the confirmation process — and easing the procedural burden of a 50-50 Senate.

State of play: Warnock flipped the seat in a 2021 runoff to become the state’s first Black senator and had been among Republicans’ top targets nationally. While Warnock surpassed Walker, a former pro football star, by more than 37,000 votes in November, it wasn’t enough to avoid a four-week runoff.

Driving the news: Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, was a first-time candidate in 2020. Polls had consistently shown the general and runoff race in a dead heat, with Warnock outperforming other Georgia Democrats on the ticket who faltered on Election Day in November.

What happened: Although Walker sought to tie Warnock directly to President Biden, whose popularity has dropped in the state after winning it in 2020, Walker’s campaign was dogged by scandals.

  • Two ex-girlfriends this fall alleged Walker paid for their abortion procedures. Walker, who had taken a strong anti-abortion stance, denied the allegations.
  • In the final days of the race, Walker also faced scrutiny for claiming a homestead exemption in Texas in 2022 and 2021. (He moved back to Georgia last year after decades in the Lone Star State.)

Meanwhile, Warnock has been emphasizing his bipartisan policy work, ranging from military policy to a $35 monthly insulin cost cap proposal.

  • In the runoff, he campaigned directly to the estimated 200,000 split-ticket voters who voted for Warnock and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in November.

The intrigue: Warnock did not shy away from attacking Walker’s past. In the final weeks of the general election and during the runoff, the Democrat more directly called out the Republican’s scandals and has repeatedly declared him unfit for office.

Catch up quick: Walker’s campaign faced near-constant scrutiny over past allegations of domestic violence and inflations of his academic record.

  • Walker gained a tremendous new advantage in the runoff, when Kemp campaigned alongside and cut an ad for him, as well as lent his get-out-the-vote infrastructure to Walker for the four-week runoff. But it wasn’t enough to pull him over the finish line.

Of note: Warnock, backed by national Democratic groups, outspent Walker in the runoff. And he mounted an impressive turnout effort as well — pledging to knock on more doors in the runoff than in the four weeks leading up to the general election.

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