Warnock, Walker U.S Senate race heads to December runoff

It was a tense night for Georgia voters as Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock was locked in a tight battle for the Georgia Senate seat with Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Neither candidate passed the 50% threshold, leading to a Dec. 6 runoff.

The race between Warnock and Walker was one of the tightest and most closely-watched races in the country. In the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote, Warnock and Walker have been in a statistical dead heat, with Walker gaining ground as the vote neared. The candidates took turns in the lead as election night went on, with the race being far too close to call. 

“We always knew that this race would be close, and, so, that’s where we are, ” Warnock said at 11:49 p.m. on election night.

Walker, a political novice, is a former Heisman Trophy winner for the Georgia Bulldogs and then professional football star, first with Donald’s Trump’s New Jersey Generals of the USFL and several NFL teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings.

Warnock, a senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Old Fourth Ward, had a run-off vote against Kelly Loeffler in January 2021, which he won by two percentage points – becoming the first Democratic Georgia senator since 2005 alongside Senator Jon Ossoff.

“I don’t come to lose,” Walker said to his supporters as votes were still being counted, holding a slight lead around midnight.

Walker and Warnock fought a bitterly contested campaign. Warnock has said Walker is unfit for office, citing domestic violence and “pathological” lying. Walker has tied Warnock to Biden and has blamed him for inflation and the state of the economy.

When casting her vote, Georgia voter Carmen Doutoure considered policies the candidates supported and leadership potential. 

“I think Warnock will bring truth, honesty, integrity, unity, love, all the characteristics that a leader should have,” Doutoure said. “It’s not necessarily about, ‘Oh, he’s going to push that bill,’ but I feel like he will really listen to us [Georgians], and he’s not just going to have deaf ears where we have to scream at the top of the mountain to be heard.”

The Georgia Senate race is one of the most competitive and pivotal races in the United States. It was one of 35 Senate seats up for grabs, but among a handful of close races that could determine the balance of power. 

“This election really matters because we need to overturn the Biden Administration’s actions, and this could very well be the deciding vote in the senate,” Chair of Cobb County Republican Party Salleigh Grubbs said. “I believe that Herschel will win the seat outright, and by tomorrow morning, he will be a U.S. senator.”

Ashleigh Ewald, president of the College Democrats for Georgia, she she hopes that Warnock wins and thinks that if Walker wins, Georgians will be at a disadvantage. 

“I really hope Warnock prevails, and I think he will,” Ewald said. “I think a lot of times people just want to vote for Walker for control of the Senate, but he’s a puppet and is not going to do the work needed to help support Georgians or the county.”

Exit polls showed voters main concerns were inflation and abortion after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. Those who viewed addressing inflation as most important tended to vote republican in support of Walker, while those who were more concerned with reproductive rights voted for Warnock. 

“As a young man, [reproductive justice] is something that’s very important to me,” said former Midtown student Royce Mann, who voted for Warnock. “Even though it’s not something that affects me directly, it’s scary to think that my peers don’t have control over their own bodies now that Georgia’s six-week abortion ban has gone into effect. I think that our very democracy is on the line.”