Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a nail-biter of a run-off election for Georgia’s remaining Senate seat.
Warnock’s win of a full six-year term gives the Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate, handing the Biden administration control of the legislative branch after sharing it with the GOP.
Unofficial state results show Warnock with 50.7% of the vote to Walker’s 49.2% with 94% of counties and precincts reporting. Fewer than 50,000 votes separate the two candidates. The race was called by NBC News, ABC News and CBS News.
“After a hard fought campaign — or should I say campaigns — it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken,” Warnock told supporters in Atlanta late Tuesday.
The close run-off, which was held as neither candidate received 50% of the vote during the Nov. 8 midterm election, attracted wide attention nationwide over its deciding role in the Senate. In the state, more than 1.8 million voters cast ballots early, representing 27% of the active voting population.
According to the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, 1.7 million people cast ballots early in person with another 175,500 absentee ballots submitted.
“I often say that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children,” Reverend Warnock said in his victory speech. “Voting is faith put into action. And Georgia, you have been praying with your lips and your legs. With your hands and your feet. And your heads and your hearts.
“You have put in hard work and here we are standing together.”
The Republicans were betting Walker, a former NFL running back, would flip the seat amid what they hoped would be a Red Wave during the midterms that never materialized.
Walker lost despite having the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, as his campaign was dogged by allegations brought against him by two women who claim he pressured them into having abortions despite campaigning against the medical procedure. He also faced allegations of domestic abuse from a former romantic parter.
The former football player conceded defeated by thanking supporters and his wife, Julie Blanchard.
“One of the things I want to tell all of you is you never stop dreaming. I don’t want any of you to stop dreaming, I don’t want any of you to stop believing in America. I want you to believe in America and continue to believe in the Constitution and believe in our elected officials, most of all,” Walker said.
President Joe Biden tweeted that he called Warnock to congratulate him on the victory.
“Tonight, Georgia voters stood up for our democracy, rejected Ultra MAGAism and most importantly: sent a good man back to the senate,” the president said, referring to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan.
“Here’s to six more years.”
With Trump’s backing of Walker, who supports conservative issues such as beefing up border security and defending police, Democrats framed the victory as another defeat for the former president.
“Sen. Warnock’s victory shows once again that Democrats are in sync with America and MAGA Republicans are not,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted late Tuesday, referring to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan. ”
“Sen. Warnock’s well-earned victory is a victory for Georgia, and a victory for democracy and against MAGA Republican extremist policies.”
Warnock, a senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, became the first Black man elected to the Senate from Georgia after defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in an early 2021 run-off election when the power of the Senate also hung in the balance.
Loeffler was appointed to the seat after Sen. Johnny Isakson retired due to health reasons.
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