ATLANTA, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 06: Democratic Georgia Senate nominee U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) speaks during an election night vigil party at the Marriott Marquis on December 6, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Senator Warnock defeated his Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff tonight. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent from Georgia, is set to beat Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the state’s runoff to win a full six-year term in the Senate, according to NBC News.
Warnock’s projected victory over Walker will give Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate, a potentially crucial boost that closes out much better-than-expected midterm elections for the party that controls the White House.
It’s also a great loss for former President Donald Trump, who had championed and campaigned for Walker. Trump has already come under fire from some Republicans after many of his handpicked candidates underperformed in key midterm races, helping Democrats retain majority control in the upper house of Congress.
“Thank you Georgia. We did it again,” Warnock tweeted Tuesday night.
Walker delivered a concession speech to a crowd at his election observation party at about 11 p.m. ET. “I’m not going to make any excuses because we had a bloody fight,” Walker said.
The outcome of Georgia’s protracted, bitterly contested Senate contest could have major implications for Congress, both for the remainder of President Joe Biden’s first term and for the 2024 cycle, when Democrats again face a difficult election map.
The race went to a run-off after neither Warnock nor Walker won more than 50% of the vote in the November 8 general election. While Warnock got more votes than Walker, third-runner-up Chase Oliver, a Libertarian, secured just over 2% of the vote, keeping one of the two main contenders from winning a majority, according to NBC News.
But only Warnock and Walker were on the ballot for the runoff, eliminating any possible mantle tail effect Walker may have benefited from in November when Georgia’s GOP Gov. Brian Kemp easily won re-election.
Instead, Walker’s gaffe- and scandal-plagued campaign was on full display as the runoff saw more accounts of the former NFL star’s personal life.
Republicans circled the floats around the ex-NFL star after The Daily Beast and other news outlets reported that Walker, who campaigned strongly against abortion, paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion years earlier. Walker denied the allegations, although his adult son, Christian Walker, castigated his father on social media. Less than two weeks before midterms, a second woman came forward and claimed Walker pushed her to have an abortion.
Christian Walker pointed the finger at Trump after Walker’s projected loss.
“The truth: Trump has been calling my dad for months and DEMANDING that he run,” Christian tweeted Tuesday night. “Anybody in their right mind was asking him, ‘PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. This is too dirty, you have a crazy past… PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.’ We caught the middle finger. He ran.”
Walker’s private life had already come under scrutiny before these allegations came to light. Earlier in the campaign, Walker had admitted fathering several other children previously not known to be related to him. The Senate bid has also raised questions about Walker’s mental health, and renewed allegations by Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, that he was abusive and threatening to her.
Just last week, The Daily Beast reported allegations by Walker’s ex-girlfriend Cheryl Parsa, who accused the Senate candidate of violent behavior and infidelity.
Warnock’s win will give Democrats crucial leverage in the Senate after nearly two years in which the chamber was split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris held the crucial vote. With a 51-49 majority, Democrats will win majorities on key Senate committees, which could make it easier for them to confirm candidates.
It could also reduce the outsized influence of a few less moderate Democrats, notably Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose votes were required for Democrats to pass legislation through the evenly divided chamber.