By Bruce C.T. Wright
Sen. Raphael Warnock is projected to win the Georgia senate runoff with a narrow election victory over Herschel Walker in a contest that was close until the very end. The runoff election victory was Warnock’s second in as many years and paves the way for him to serve a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate.
It also solidifies the Democrats’ advantage in the Senate.
The Associated Press called the race late Tuesday night, less than a month after neither candidate could garner 50% of the general election’s votes, sparking the runoff.
At the time the race was called, most estimates showed Warnock clinging to a lead of a little more than one percentage point.
The NAACP celebrated Warnock’s win and credited Black voters, in particular.
“Georgia, you have so much to be proud of tonight. I want to give a special thanks to the tireless efforts of our organizers, volunteers, and members who rallied to ensure that Black voices were heard in an election where our democratic principles are at stake,” NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement emailed to NewsOne on Tuesday night. “We showed Georgia, and the rest of the country, what Black power looks like. The NAACP thanks you for your unwavering commitment to democracy, and looks forward to your engagement as we continue our work to hold elected officials accountable and build a brighter future for every American. Just as we have done for the last 100+ years, we will continue this fight to ensure that our representation goes far beyond Election Day, and our voices are included in all conversations where decisions are being made. One thing is clear – when we work together, our power is unmatched.”
Democrats had already secured control of the Senate before Warnock’s election Tuesday night, but there was still plenty at stake. Warnock’s win gives the Democrats a 51-49 edge.
“Senate Democrats’ resounding victories have culminated in one of our best campaign cycles in modern history. We won because of the tremendous quality of our candidates, the strength of our message, and the results we have delivered for the American people,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Sen. Gary Peters said in a statement sent to NewsOne. “This cycle in state after state and race after race, voters stood with Senate Democrats – and now we have protected and expanded our majority.”
This year’s Senate runoff was subject to SB 202, an election law that makes it harder to cast a vote. Because of the timing of the runoff, a state holiday briefly threatened to prevent voting on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Countless voters wouldn’t have been able to vote if Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr had their way.
Speaking with NewsOne ahead of Election Day, voting rights and election protection expert Helen Butler said the challenges facing voters were to be expected given the combination of SB 202 limiting the time for runoff and the confusion caused by the secretary of state’s initial guidance on Saturday voting.
She explained that election administrators around the state had to essentially work double time winding up the Nov. 8 election and required risk-limiting audit to turn around and prepare for the Dec. 6 runoff.
“Going from nine weeks to for the runoff period down to four weeks made it difficult,” said Butler, who leads the Georgia Coalition for a People’s Agenda. “It truncated the timeframe and basically made vote by mail nonexistent. It made it such that the election officials were scrambling to ensure they got all the equipment set up and reprogrammed for the new election.”
At times, the Senate race between Walker and Warnock devolved into scandalous proportions, thanks in no small part to multiple women accusing the avowed pro-lifer of encouraging and paying for their abortions.
Walker was also caught in several notable lies, prompting his own campaign to label him a liar.
But it was Walker’s insistence that he worked in law enforcement that seemingly generated the race’s most infamous moment: when the Republican pulled out a fake badge during the one and only one-on-one debate against Warnock.
It came as Warnock challenged Walker on the topic of policing.
“I’ve never pretended to be a police officer and I’ve never threatened a shootout with the police,” Warnock said in reference to reports that Walker did just that.
It was at that moment that Walker pulled out an apparent police badge as purported proof of having a background in law enforcement years ago. He was quickly admonished by debate moderator Tina Tyus-Shaw, who reminded him that the debate rules forbid the use of any “prop.”