The contest between Senator Raphael Warnock, the Democrat, and Herschel Walker, the Republican, is seen as key to which party controls the Senate.
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By Maya King
- Nov. 9, 2022Updated 3:04 p.m. ET
ImageHerschel Walker, the Republican candidate for Georgia’s Senate seat, during a campaign event in Savannah in October.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York TimesImageSenator Raphael Warnock of Georgia during a campaign event in the Atlanta suburb of College Park in October.Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times
ATLANTA — The race between Senator Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, will continue into a December runoff election, The Associated Press said on Wednesday, with neither candidate clearing the 50 percent threshold to win outright.
The result injects even more uncertainty into a race that both parties see as critical to deciding control of the U.S. Senate.
With more than 95 percent of ballots counted on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Warnock had 49.4 percent of the vote to Mr. Walker’s 48.5 percent. About 35,000 votes separated the two candidates.
Mr. Walker, a political newcomer with significant personal baggage, ran a hyper-conservative campaign with thinly outlined policy plans and heavy appeals to social and cultural issues.
Mr. Warnock, who is also the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, campaigned largely on his work over the last two years in the Senate. He emphasized the legislation he passed alongside Republican senators, and his party’s policy wins for low-income Georgians and those over age 65.
Both won their primaries easily.
Georgia’s new election law shortened the runoff period to four weeks, forcing campaigns to mobilize voters and coordinate events through Thanksgiving and the early weeks of the holiday season. That means Georgia voters will continue facing an onslaught of political ads over the next month of campaigning, which is likely to bring more visits from high-profile figures in both parties. The campaigns will go into overtime, working to turn out voters again after two long and contentious election cycles this year.
The contest will also keep the spotlight on two Black male candidates from different backgrounds and political sensibilities. Mr. Walker is a former athlete who has criticized Democrats, accusing them of using race to divide “a great country full of generous people.”
Mr. Warnock now preaches from a pulpit once helmed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where he delivers messages about systemic racism and has preached eulogies for Black victims of police violence.
Mr. Warnock and allied Democratic groups spent millions of dollars in advertising to elevate allegations of domestic violence against Mr. Walker. The Democrats ran several spots of Mr. Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, recounting instances in which she said Mr. Walker became physically violent with her and threatened to end her life.
But those accusations did not derail Mr. Walker’s general election campaign, which was bolstered by unwavering support from Georgia’s staunch conservative base. For conservatives who were concerned about Mr. Walker’s past, a parade of visits from national Republican figures, including Senators Rick Scott, Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, assured many in the party that Mr. Walker would be, above all else, a reliable Republican vote in the U.S. Senate.
Mr. Walker also repeatedly attempted to tie Mr. Warnock to President Biden and national Democrats on issues like the economy and crime, suggesting that re-electing Mr. Warnock would only worsen the country’s economic woes and make Georgia’s cities less safe.