Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock defeated Republican rival Herschel Walker in the second round of elections in Georgia on Tuesday, securing a full Democratic majority in the Senate for the remainder of his term. current US President Joe Biden and unimpressive midterm cycle limits for Republicans in the last key vote of the year.
With Warnock’s second overall win in as many years, Democrats would have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, taking a seat from the current 50-50 with John Fetterman’s win in Pennsylvania. There will, however, be a divided government, with Republicans narrowly taking control of the House of Representatives.
Warnock, 53, told jubilant supporters packed into a downtown: “After a tough campaign – or should I say campaigns – I am honored to utter four strong words. The most powerful word ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken. The Atlanta Hotel Ballroom.
Warnock, a Baptist minister and first black senator from his state, declared, “I often say that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we want for ourselves and our children. . “Georgia, you prayed with your lips and feet, with your hands and feet, with your mind and heart. You have worked hard, and here we are standing together.”
In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker with 37,000 votes out of nearly 4 million, but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid being voted out. The senator appeared to be headed for a broader eventual return in Tuesday’s run, with Walker, a football legend at the University of Georgia and in the NFL, unable to get over a barrage of damaging accusations. , including claims that he paid two ex-girlfriends’ abortions despite supporting a nationwide ban on the procedure.
Walker, an ally and friend of former President Donald Trump, told supporters late Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta: “The numbers don’t look like they’re going to add up. “. “There are no excuses in life, and now I’m not going to make any excuses because we waged a fierce war.”
The Democratic Party’s Georgia victory solidifies the state’s position as a Deep South battleground two years after Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won the 2021 election, helping the party control of the Senate just months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in 30 years. Voters brought Warnock back to the Senate in the same cycle that they re-elected Republican Governor Brian Kemp by a comfortable margin and picked an all-GOP group of constitutional officials from across the state. .
Walker’s defeat ends the GOP’s struggle this year to win with flawed candidates molded from Trump’s mold, a blow to the former president as he builds his bid for the House. White for the third time before 2024.
A brand new Democratic majority in the Senate means the party will no longer have to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Republicans and won’t have to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to break many votes. elected.
National Democrats celebrated Tuesday, with Biden posting a photo of his congratulatory phone call to the senator on Twitter. “Georgia voters stood up for our democracy, rejected Ultra MAGA, and … sent a good man back to the Senate,” Biden wrote on Twitter, referring to the slogan “Make America America great again” by Trump.
About 1.9 million ballots were cast in Georgia by mail and during early voting. Strong voter turnout on Election Day added about 1.4 million people, slightly more than the total voter turnout on Election Day in November and into 2020.
The total turnout is still 4.5 million lower than the total turnout in 2021. Voting rights groups have pointed to changes made by state legislators after the 2020 election that shortened the time for the finals, from nine weeks to four weeks, as the reason for the rate the rate of early voting and voting by mail decreased.
Warnock emphasized his willingness to work across aisles and his personal values, prominently as senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. ever preached.
Walker has benefited on the campaign trail thanks to the near-unequaled name recognition in his football career, but is still dogged by questions about his health for office.
As a millionaire businessman, Walker faces questions about his past, including exaggerating his business achievements, academic qualifications, and philanthropic activities.
In his personal life, Walker has faced renewed attention over his ex-wife’s previous accounts of domestic violence, including details that he once held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. . He never denied those specifics and wrote about his violent tendencies in a 2008 memoir alleging that the behavior was due to mental illness.
As a candidate, he sometimes messes with policy discussions, arguing that the climate crisis is caused by China’s “bad air” surpassing the US’s “fresh air”. and argues that diabetics can control their health by “eating right,” a practice that is still not enough. for patients with insulin-dependent diabetes.
On Tuesday, Atlanta voter Tom Callaway praised the strength of the Republican Party in Georgia and said he supported Kemp in the first round of voting. But he said he voted for Warnock because he doesn’t think “Herschel Walker is qualified to be a senator.”
“I don’t believe he made a statement about what he really believed in or had a meaningful campaign,” Callaway said.
Meanwhile, Walker sought to portray Warnock as someone who agreed with Biden. At times, he carried out the attack in a particularly personal way, accusing Warnock of “begging on his knees” at the White House – a stinging charge made against a black challenger against a senator. Black about his relationship with a white president.
Warnock touted his Senate achievements, touting a provision he funded to limit insulin costs for Medicare patients. He praised the infrastructure and maternal health deals made with Republican senators, referring to those Republican colleagues more than he mentioned Biden or other Washington Democrats.
Warnock distances himself from Biden, whose approval ratings have lagged as inflation remains high. After the general election, Biden promised to help Warnock in any way he could, even if it meant staying away from Georgia. Ignoring the president, Warnock instead decided to campaign with former President Barack Obama in the days leading up to the second round of elections.
Meanwhile, Walker avoided campaigning with Trump until the final day of the campaign, when the pair conducted a conference call on Monday with supporters.
Walker joins failed Senate candidates Dr. Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Blake Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire as Trump loyalists, the finalists. have lost races that Republicans once thought they would – or at least could – win.
Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy and Ron Harris contributed to this report.