Raphael Warnock wins U.S. Senate runoff, giving Democrats a 51-seat majority
Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock will return to Washington to represent Georgia for the next six years, handing Senate Democrats a coveted 51st seat.
The Associated Press called the race shortly before 10:30 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday.
More than 1.8 million people voted in the shortened early voting period, and another million or so voters cast a ballot Tuesday when steady turnout was reported across the state.
Warnock’s win will boost the spirits of Georgia Democrats, who failed to win any statewide offices last month. Warnock led Walker by nearly 38,000 votes last month, but did not achieve 50% of the vote, forcing the runoff.
Walker, a favorite of former President Donald Trump, ran on cultural conservative issues like restricting transgender athletes from playing on school teams, limiting abortion access and eliminating “wokeism” from the military.
That was too much for voters like Francisca Small, an East Cobb Army veteran who calls herself a lifelong Republican or Libertarian. She was one of the 81,000 voters who backed Libertarian Chase Oliver in the November general election and said the thought of voting for either Walker or Warnock made her stomach churn, but pulling the lever for Warnock made her slightly less queasy.
“I voted for Warnock. I don’t agree with 99% of his platform,” she said. “But it’s the women’s right to choose. It’s the individual’s right to choose their own path, whether you’re trans and you want to choose who you’re supposed to be or you’re a child who doesn’t know what gender you want to be or what sexual orientation you have, that’s important, the ability to choose.”
Others, like Lawrenceville resident Lee Freeman, were proud to cast their vote for Warnock. A lifelong Georgian who has been delighted by Gwinnett County’s shift to the left in recent election cycles, she cast a ballot for Warnock at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds Tuesday.
Like Small, Freeman said she has been turned off by Republicans’ positions on LGBTQ issues, especially since several of her friends identify as part of that community. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal protection of abortion rights also has her on edge.
“We already lost Roe v. Wade, and I really feel like there are other measures that are on the chopping block if Republicans take the Senate and the House,” Freeman said.
Walker’s campaign was beset from the beginning by a host of scandals ranging from accusations of violent behavior toward his family, lies about his past achievements and former girlfriends who said he helped them get abortions despite his current anti-abortion stance.
Warnock, a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, campaigned on his history of public service while seeming to distance himself from President Joe Biden and national Democrats as conservative Georgians blame them for a tumultuous economy. At campaign events, Warnock often touted money-saving measures he pushed like capping insulin costs for seniors on Medicare.
His victory will give Senate Democrats 51 seats, cementing their majority and giving them more power in committees and in approving federal and judicial appointments. Democrats narrowly lost the House in November’s midterm election.
This story was originally published by the Georgia Recorder, a sister publication of the Arizona Mirror and a member of the States Newsroom network of local news organizations.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.