Democratic US Senator Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff election on Tuesday, ensuring Democrats an outright majority in the US Senate for the rest of US President Joe Biden’s current term.
With Warnock’s second runoff victory in as many years, Democrats will have a 51-49 Senate majority, gaining a seat from the current 50-50 split with John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania.
However, there will be divided government, with Republicans having narrowly flipped control of the US House of Representatives.
“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, 53, told jubilant supporters who packed a downtown Atlanta hotel ballroom.
“I often say that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children,” Warnock said. “Georgia, you have been praying with your lips and your legs, your hands and your feet, your heads and your hearts. You have put in the hard work, and here we are standing together.”
In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast, but fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The senator appeared to be headed for a wider final margin in Tuesday’s runoff, with Walker, a football legend at the University of Georgia and in the NFL, unable to overcome a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions.
“The numbers look like they’re not going to add up,” Walker told supporters late on Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. “There’s no excuses in life, and I’m not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight.”
The Democrats’ Georgia victory solidifies the state’s place as a Deep South battleground two years after Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won runoffs that gave the party Senate control just months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate in 30 years to win Georgia.
Voters returned Warnock to the Senate in the same cycle they re-elected Republican Governor Brian Kemp by a comfortable margin and chose an all-Republican slate of statewide constitutional officers.
The Democrats’ new outright majority in the Senate means the party will no longer have to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Republicans and will not have to rely on US Vice President Kamala Harris to break as many tie votes.
National Democrats celebrated on Tuesday, with Biden posting on Twitter a photograph of his congratulatory telephone call to the senator.
“Georgia voters stood up for our democracy, rejected Ultra MAGAism, and ... sent a good man back to the Senate,” Biden wrote, referencing former US president Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
About 1.9 million runoff votes were cast in Georgia by mail and during early voting. A robust election day turnout added about 1.4 million more, slightly more than the election day totals last month and in 2020.
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