It's not over: U.S. Senate race between Raphael Warnock, Herschel Walker headed to runoff

·7 min read

Georgia's U.S. Senate race will go to a runoff, with final county results showing the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Raphael Warnock, finishing with 49.42% of the vote ahead of Republican Herschel Walker and Libertarian Chase Oliver.

The final tally affirmed what an official with the Georgia Secretary of State's office announced via Twitter shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, that it was "safe to say there will be a runoff for the U.S. Senate.

The candidates in Georgia's Senate race resigned themselves to not knowing the outcome on Election Night.

Walker finished with 48.52% of the vote followed by Oliver with 2%. The inability for one candidate to claim a majority — 50% plus one vote — forces the runoff

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U.S. Senate candidates Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, and Herschel Walker
U.S. Senate candidates Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, and Herschel Walker

"Well, good evening Georgia, or maybe I should say good morning," Warnock said, appearing at his Election Night gathering about 1:45 a.m.

"Here's what we do know. When they finish counting the votes from todays election, I am going to have received more votes than my opponent, we know that," Warnock said. "I understand at this late hour, you may be a little tired. I may be a little tired, for now. But whether it's later tonight or tomorrow or four weeks from now, we will hear from the people of Georgia."

Nail biter race

The Senate race in Georgia has been incredibly close, and is one of a handful of races that may determine control of congress. Because of this, the race has brought national attention — and money.

Polling ahead of election day showed Herschel Walker with a slight lead, but the race was essentially a tossup according to polling aggregator 538. Neither candidate had over 50% of the popular vote in the 538 model.

The race was also the among the expensive Senate race in the country, according to the election spending site Open Secrets. The candidates raised an eye-popping $143 million, more than in any other race, and spent $115 million — second only to the $133 million spent by candidates in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

Warnock was far and away the leader on both fundraising and spending, raising $99 million and spending $76 million of it, according to Open Secrets. Walker raised $37 million and spent $32 million of it.

Different backgrounds, different policies

Warnock and Walker are both relatively new to politics. Warnock had no experience as an elected official prior to being elected to the Senate seat in the 2021 runoff, and Walker has no elected experience either. The two candidates have very different backgrounds prior to the race, however.

Warnock graduated from Morehouse College and attended Union Theological Seminary in New York City for a Master of Divinity, Master of Philosophy and PhD. In 2005 Warnock became the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the same church that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father pastored.

Walker made a name for himself at the University of Georgia as a football player. The Bulldogs won a national title in his freshman year in 1980 and Walker himself won the Heisman Trophy in 1982. Walker left after his junior year for a 15-year career in professional football before retiring in 1997. He has been involved in various sporting competitions and business ventures since then.

The candidates clashed on a number of issues —  abortion, voting rights, the economy, and even the scheduling of the sole debate.

Warnock has had a particular focus on healthcare. He introduced a bill to cap insulin costs at $35 a month for anyone with insurance, a version of which passed in the Inflation Reduction Act capping costs for those on Medicare. He has also been a vocal supporter of federal voting rights legislation, and campaigned on leaving decisions on abortion up to patients and doctors, not government regulation.

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Walker has said he wants to lower taxes and advocates fewer government regulations. He backed Gov. Brian Kemp's proposals for a limited Medicaid expansion, which was blocked by the Biden administration, and Kemp's new election bill, SB 202, which Warnock has said made it more difficult to vote. At times he said he would support a ban on abortion without exception, during the debate he said he supported Georgia's law which does include exceptions for rape or incest.

Walker also faced a number of scandals over the course of the race. In June it was revealed that Walker had four children, not just his son Christian. Walker's ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, said he threatened her with violence on several occasions. Walker also claimed to have been involved with law enforcement, including suggesting in 2019 that he was involved with the FBI during a story about being so angry with someone that he grabbed a gun and headed off intending to kill the man.

Walker exaggerated the success of some of his businesses, including one that does not appear to exist, and that he donated profits from companies despite little evidence. Two women came forward to allege that Walker paid for their abortions, one in 1993 and one in 2009, despite sometimes advocating for a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. After these allegations, his son Christian, a conservative voice with his own following, blasted Walker.

Warnock also faced some scrutiny over a housing project owned by a charity associated with the Ebenezer Baptist Church. The management company at the project filed eviction notices for non-payment of rent, including less than $30 in one case. The company told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that no one had actually been evicted for non-payment since June of 2020 and neither Warnock nor the church was involved in the building operation.

The seat

Warnock was elected in 2021 in a special election to fill out the term of the late Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired due to ill health. He defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill Isakson's seat prior to the special election.

Isakson had served two full terms, but with mounting medical issues he retired at the end of 2019 with two years left in his tenure. Because Isakson's term was not completed, Warnock only served briefly in office before running for re-election to a full six-year term.

Whether Warnock or Walker wins, they will serve alongside Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff to represent Georgia's interests at the federal level. Warnock's and Ossoff's victories last year narrowly gave Democrats control of the chamber.

Warnock currently sits on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. He also serves on the Congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Walker easily won his primary against several other Republican challengers with nearly 70% of the vote, defeating Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black along with candidates Kelvin King, Latham Saddler and others.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia U.S. Senate election runoff between Walker Warnock likely