Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker Are Headed to a Runoff in Georgia. Here’s What Happens Next

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The intrigue over the 2022 Midterm Elections will continue for one more month. The closely watched Georgia Senate race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker is headed to a runoff, according to the Associated Press.

Since no candidate cracked 50%, Georgia law requires a runoff between the top two vote-getters four weeks after Election Day. Georgia voters will return to the polls to decide control of the Senate seat on Dec. 6. Depending on races still too close to call in Arizona and Nevada, control of the Senate could once again depend on the result.

By Wednesday afternoon, Warnock led Walker by just 35,083 votes with 3,928,640 votes counted. That’s 49.41% to 48.52%, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State. Libertarian Chase Oliver had 2.07% of the vote.

“Here’s what we do know,” Warnock said in a speech early Wednesday morning. “We know that when they’re finished counting the votes from today’s election, that we’re going to have received more votes than my opponent.”

Georgia’s Senate race has been one of the most competitive in the country. For Democrats hoping to keep control of the Senate, which is currently split 50-50 between the parties with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties, a win in Georgia is imperative. Georgia’s Senate contest has also been one of the most expensive in the country, with the candidates and outside groups spending upwards of $250 million.

Warnock is the longtime pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. In January 2021, he defeated Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler in a special election runoff. His win, along with that of fellow Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff, secured Democratic control of the Senate.

Walker is a former college football star and longtime friend of former President Donald Trump, serving on Trump’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. Thanks to early support from Trump, Walker was able to overcome GOP doubts about his candidacy and secure the Republican nomination.

However, his campaign has been plagued by controversy. Though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ultimately endorsed Walker last year, it was widely assumed that he was talking about Walker over the summer when he mentioned “candidate quality” as a factor that would complicate GOP efforts to win control of the Senate.

Throughout his candidacy, Walker had been embroiled in scandal. First, it was allegations of violence and abuse. Walker’s ex-wife long ago accused him of holding a gun to her head and threatening her life; other women have made similar allegations. His campaign denied some of the claims and declined to comment on others, while Walker positioned his previous mistakes as a result of mental health struggles and part of a journey of divine redemption.

But the press kept unearthing facts that undermined the story he told about his life: contrary to his claims, he did not graduate college, and never worked in law enforcement. In June, after he frequently criticized absentee fathers, the Daily Beast reported that he had three children whom he had not publicly acknowledged. And after he had branded himself as staunchly “pro-life,” the same publication reported that Walker had encouraged one woman to get an abortion and paid for it. She later identified herself as the mother of one of his children. Two weeks before Election Day, another woman alleged he had paid for her to terminate a pregnancy as well. Walker denied both claims.

Walker said just a few months ago that he did not support exceptions to abortion laws. He walked back that stance in an October debate with Warnock, saying he supports Georgia’s law banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life and health of the mother.

But, with four more weeks of campaigning looming, Walker has additional time to smooth over any past mistakes. “I’m like Ricky Bobby, I don’t come to lose,” Walker said at his election night party. “Something good, it takes a while for it to get better.”

Meanwhile, the coalition of organizers working to turn out voters of color is gearing up to campaign hard for the next month. The New Georgia Project plans to launch its runoff field program on Monday.

“Y’all wrote us off in 2021,” said New Georgia Project CEO Kendra Cotton. “You’re going to rue the day if you do it again.”

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