Sen. Raphael Warnock has won reelection in Georgia, the Associated Press reports, giving the Democrats a 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate.
Warnock defeated first-time candidate Herschel Walker, whose campaign was beset by allegations that he paid two women to have abortions.
More from Variety
Warnock finished ahead of Walker in the election on Nov. 8, but fell short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. Former President Barack Obama, who had campaigned for Warnock earlier in the race, returned to Georgia during the runoff to urge voters to come back to the polls.
Though Democrats were already guaranteed to hold onto control of the Senate, the extra seat gives them some breathing room, and should make it easier to pass appointments out of Senate committees.
The outcome also reinforces a disappointing year for Republicans, who had hoped for a “red wave” that would give them control of both houses of Congress. The Republicans did take control of the House of Representatives by a narrow margin.
Georgia, until recently a solidly red state, is now set to be represented by two Democrats in the Senate for at least four more years.
Warnock first won his seat during a special runoff election in early 2021, defeating the previous incumbent Kelly Loeffler by just under 100,000 votes. He won alongside Democrat Jon Ossoff, who defeated incumbent Republican David Perdue, giving Democrats the 50 votes needed to hold the majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.
Walker, a former NFL running back who played college football for the Georgia Bulldogs NCAA team, endorsed former President Donald Trump during both of his presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020 and spoke on Trump’s behalf at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Trump encouraged Walker to run for Senate in 2021, but Walker needed to re-establish residency in Georgia, as he was previously a Texas resident. In August 2021, Walker announced his intention to run for Warnock’s Senate seat.
Walker’s campaign has been defined by controversy, often making comments that were later reported as false by media outlets, such as his involvement working with law enforcement. In early October, Walker fired his campaign political director Taylor Crowe over suspicions that Crowe was leaking unfavorable information about Walker to the media.
Best of Variety