Three and a half hours after the polls closed in Georgia, Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent senator, won the runoff election Tuesday, defeating Herschel Walker by a narrow margin of nearly 3%. With 99% of the vote counted, Warnock had 51.2% or 1,798, 850 votes to Walker’s 48.8% or 1,713,890 votes. Warnock was unable to acquire the needed 50% in the general election but he did the job the second time around and now begins his first full term in the senate.
After a nip and tuck race throughout the evening, with the vote seesawing as each candidate took a favored county, the celebrants in Warnock’s headquarters lit up the ballroom with their cell phones beaming like torches. The victory gives the Democrats a little more breathing room with a 51 to 49 advantage in the Senate, making it less likely to have those contentious bouts of horse-trading on legislative proposals. It is also a decisive setback for Trump, who endorsed the former football star. On the other hand, former President Obama was among a host of Democrats who campaigned for Warnock.
Warnock, 53, took five of the six major counties, including 95% of Fulton County, amassing 362,736 votes with 95% of the votes tallied. There was some concern about the turnout of the Black vote, given the various tactics of voter suppression afoot. But Black Georgians and many of their white supporters in the suburbs turned out in record numbers, particularly in the early polling.
“I want to thank Georgia,” Warnock said in his victory speech before a cheering throng of supporters. “I want to thank my mother who is here with us tonight and you will see her later. She used to pick cotton and tobacco, and went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.”
During his twenty-minute speech, he recalled Dr. King, and thanked the parishioners of Ebenezer Baptist Church where he is the pastor. John Lewis, and several civil rights martyrs were recognized before he promised to serve all Georgians, “even those who didn’t vote for me,” he chuckled.
“And so to everyone out there struggling today, whether you voted for me or not, know this, I hear you, I see you, and I will fight for your family.”
Many listeners may have been waiting for him to thank his ex-wife but she wasn’t mentioned, though her name for their custody battle over their two children was often tabloid gossip.
Walker’s comments after his defeat weren’t exactly a concession speech, but he uttered, “I want to continue to believe in this country, believe in our elected officials and most of all, stay together. Don’t let anyone separate you. Don’t let anyone tell you that we can’t, because I’m here to tell you we can.”
Senate Majority Leader Schumer tweeted his celebratory remarks, beginning with “51” the number of Democratic senators seated. He said Warnock’s victory “was well-earned and…a victory for Georgia, and a victory for democracy and against MAGA Republican extremist politics.”
“Six more years, six more years,” the crowd chanted, noting the length of term for Georgia’s first Black senator.