Georgia’s incumbent Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock has defeated Republican challenger Heschel Walker to win his first full term in the United States Senate.
The two African American contestants swapped leads all night as the vote tallies were uploaded but in the end, with 99% of all votes in, CNN called the race for the incumbent when it became mathematically impossible for Walker to wrestle another lead from Warnock.
at press time, Warnock had 1,814,827 votes against Walker’s 1,719,327 with over 99% of all votes accounted for. All major news networks have called the race for Warnock and Walker has given his concession speech.
In his victory speech, Warnock noted his “hard-fought campaign” and said “the people have spoken” amid cheers of “six more years!”
“There are those who will look at the outcome and say that there’s no voter suppression in Georgia,” Warnock said. “Let me be clear. Just because people endured long lines, that wrapped around buildings, some blocks long, just because they endured the rain and cold and tricks in order to vote, doesn’t mean voter suppression does not exist. It means that you the people have decided that your voices will not be silenced.”
In the general election, Warnock topped Walker by over 37,000 votes, but with 49.4% of the vote, Warnock failed to cross the 50% threshold necessary to avoid a runoff.
A record-breaking number of early voters turned out in the runoff, smashing all previous records. According to one of the state’s top elections official, Gabriel Sterling, over 1.8 million people voted early. Friday, the last day of early voting, was the single biggest early voting day ever, with more than 353,000 Georgians casting their ballots, according to Sterling.
Early voting for the runoff has been highest in several Democratic leaning counties around Atlanta, such as Fulton, Gwinnett and DeKalb County. Some GOP leaders are looking ahead to coming elections with the understanding that they must increase their own early voting numbers to be competitive.
“What we do need is, our voters need to vote early,” RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said on Fox News earlier Tuesday. “I have said this over and over again. There were many in 2020 saying, ‘Don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early,’ and we have to stop that.”
However, former President Trump has been saying the opposite — when he announced his third bid for the presidency, he called for “paper ballots, same-day voting, voter ID,” and, he added, “we want all votes counted by election night.”
Sinceand successfully defended the other seats in play in the November midterm elections, Democrats were guaranteed control of the Senate, regardless of the outcome on Tuesday. But they will have more power controlling the chamber 51-49 since they will not have to work out a power-sharing agreement with Republicans.
Walker picked up a last-minute endorsement from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former President Donald Trump held a telerally for Walker over the weekend. Walker told CBS News’ Nikole Killion on Tuesday morning that he believed they would win by 100,000 votes.
Warnock spent Tuesday with canvassers in get out the vote efforts. He told CBS News’ Nikole Killion that he felt the early turnout was good for his campaign and “now we’re going to win this election.”
According to exit polls on Election Day, voters in Georgia were split in their views of the most important qualities in a candidate: 36% said it was most important that the candidate shared their values, while 32% said a candidate’s honesty and integrity were most important to them.
Ahead of the general election, Walker’s campaign was rocked in October bythat he paid for at least one woman to have an abortion. He has denied the allegations, and national Republicans stuck by him.
Georgia played a key role in the 2020 elections, when the races for both Senate seats went into , ultimately flipping both seats from Republican to Democratic. Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue led Jon Ossoff after Election Night with 49.7% of the vote, but he ended up falling short in the runoff on Jan. 5, 2021. In the race for the other seat, Warnock led incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a 21-person race on Election Day, and he prevailed in the special election to fill the vacancy left when Sen. Johnny Isakson stepped down.