Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Herschel Walker Tuesday’s Senate runoff election in Georgia, increasing Democrats’ Senate majority to 51-49.
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Herschel Walker Tuesday’s Senate runoff election in Georgia, increasing Democrats’ Senate majority to 51-49 and cementing Georgia’s status as a swing state.
- Warnock’s second runoff victory in two years adds to the Democratic Senate majority secured by John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania in November. Warnock led by 37,000 votes in the first round in November, and leads Walker by 97,599 votes (51.4%-48.6%) at time of reporting.
- Democrats have now won three Senate races in Georgia and carried the state in the 2020 presidential election, a seismic shift in a state considered safe for Republicans before the rise of Donald Trump.
- Trump hand-picked Walker, a controversy-tinged celebrity candidate in Trump’s own image, to run despite his flaws. Walker’s gaffe-prone campaign performed the worst of any Republicans running statewide in Georgia, all of whom won their races with the exception of Walker.
- The Heisman Trophy-winning Republican’s campaign was dragged down by personal controversies, including revelations of secret children and allegations of domestic abuse and pressuring women to have abortions. “There’s no excuses in life,” Walker said in his concession speech. “And I’m not going to make any excuses now, because we put up one heck of a fight.”
- Voter turnout was high in the runoff election. More than 2.89 million voters cast ballots, lower than turnout on Election Day but representing an increase compared to the 2021 Georgia runoffs. Warnock did better with early and mail-in ballots, while Walker depended on in-person Election Day turnout.
- Georgia law requires a runoff should no candidate win more than 50% of the vote in November’s general election. After twin runoffs in early 2021 determined the Senate balance of power, this year’s contest was much lower stakes without control of the Senate on the line.
- POLITICO interviewed Walker campaign hands who said the campaign was just as flawed as the candidate himself. “He should have never run for this seat,” one unnamed campaign source told POLITICO, citing in particular Walker’s lack of transparency over his personal baggage and the negative influence of his wife, who controlled Walker’s Twitter account.
- The New York Times argued Warnock’s win is the latest sign that Arizona and Georgia have surpassed traditional swing-states like Florida and Ohio in their importance for presidential politics. Warnock’s victory proves Democrats’ gains in Georgia were no “Trump-era fluke, no one-off rebuke of an unpopular president. Georgia…is now officially contested ground.”
- CNN noted Warnock has now been the leading vote-getter in four consecutive Georgia Senate elections between the 2020 and 2022 general elections and the 2021 and 2022 runoffs. His victory is proof that “the Democratic turnout machine in Georgia over the past four weeks… once again delivered in a hotly contested race that attracted tens of millions of dollars in spending by the campaigns and national organizations.”
- Georgia talk radio host Erick Erickson offered his own takeaways on Walker’s defeat. “The story of Walker is that the candidate’s quality absolutely matters. Anyone who tells you Herschel Walker was a top-tier candidate should be ignored,” Erickson wrote. “His performance and baggage, all known going into this race, meant he should have been deterred from getting in.”
- The Washington Examiner’s David M. Drucker argued Warnock’s victory “has dispelled the notion Georgia is anything but a bona fide swing state.” Drucker continued, “This next presidential election will be the first in more than 30 years with Georgia considered competitive from day one and in a way that presents fresh opportunities for the Democrats.”
- National Review’s Jim Geraghty pointed out Walker’s election-night concession makes Kari Lake’s insistence that her defeat in Arizona’s gubernatorial election was illegitimate “stand out even more.” Lake’s refusal to concede appears to have “little real consequences” as most Arizonans are “ignoring her claims and moving on with the rest of their lives.”
© Dominic Moore, 2022