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Senator Warnock defeats Herschel Walker in close runoff in Georgia

One year after Georgia passed restrictive voting laws after Democrats won the Peach State in the 2020 presidential election, Senator Raphael Warnock won a second term on Tuesday, December 6, narrowly defeating former NFL player, Republican Herschel Walker.

Warnock won 51.4 percent of the vote to Walker’s 48.6 percent.

He became the first Democrat in Georgia to win reelection in 32 years after Sam Nunn was first elected in 1972 and won reelection in 1978 and again in 1984 and 1990.

Warnock won the metro Atlanta area that includes Gwinnett, DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb, Clayton, Henry and Douglas counties. In Gwinnett County, Warnock’s victory was 4 percent more than his showing in the midterm last month.

In the 2020 election Warnock defeated Kelly Loeffler by 51 percent of the vote in a race that helped turn Georgia into a swing state.

Warnock’s second win is the result of years of voter registration efforts spearheaded by activist Stacey Abrams who nearly became the state’s first Black governor in 2018; she lost a rematch last month in the midterm election.

Warnock’s victory came weeks after Georgia’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling to allow early voting on Saturday. The ruling thwarted attempts by the Georgia Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee to block Saturday voting ahead of the U.S. Senate runoff race.

With the Democrat’s victory in keeping control of the Senate in the midterms, there were concerns that the Senate race in Georgia would lose its significance and hurt voter turnout. But voters went to the polls anyway.

While Warnock’s win is the enduring legacy of Abrams’ efforts, his win Tuesday gives Democrats a 51-49 edge in the U.S. Senate after a victorious midterm election that pushed back a Republican effort to capture both chambers of Congress.

Republicans narrowly won control of the U.S. House, forcing Democratic House Speaker and Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi to retire. That led Representative Hakeem Jeffries to become the first Black elected as leader of the House Democrats.

While Warnock’s win may not have as much impact on the Senate majority, it will give Democrats the edge on Senate committees.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, with its 22 members, will shift from a split of 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans to 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans. That may prevent Republican’s efforts to slow down the confirmation of Biden’s judicial nominees. And with a larger majority, Democrats won’t need Vice President Kamala Harris to cast a vote to break a tie on the vote of a Senate bill.

Warnock’s win over Walker was also a victory over former President Donald Trump, who backed Walker in the race, pitting a Black celebrity candidate against a Black pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptish church in Atlanta.

With a Black big-name candidate and restrictive voting laws that included a shortened early voting period, Republicans hoped to stave off Georgia’s rising diverse voting population and win the race to gain a seat in the U.S. Senate.

But Black and minority voters turned out in record numbers, higher than in the 2020 presidential election. They voted for Warnock amid concerns that Walker was an unqualified candidate who would be a puppet for white conservative Republicans should he win the Senate race.

Warnock’s was also a victory over Trump, who last month announced his run for a second term as U.S. president in the 2024 election.

Walker was the latest Black celebrity whom Trump and Republicans have courted in recent years to win Black votes. Rapper Ice Cube and artist Kanye West supported Trump in his failed 2020 reelection bid, where he refused to concede the race after falsely claiming election fraud and incited supporters to storm the U.S.

Capitol building on January 6, hoping to stop Congress from certifying the election results.

Concerns about Trump grew last month when West showed up with white supremacist Nick Fuentes at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Instead of kicking Fuentes off the property, Trump allowed Fuentes to stay and dined with him throughout the evening. As concerns grew among conservative Republicans over several days, Trump denounced West, and claimed he didn’t know who Fuentes was before he showed up on the estate.

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