Georgia voters on Tuesday will finally decide whether Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock or Republican challenger Herschel Walker will represent the state in the Senate for the next six years.
ATLANTA – After months of campaigning, Georgia voters on Tuesday will finally decide who will represent the state in the Senate for the next six years, choosing between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican football legend Herschel Walker.
Polls open at 7 a.m. across the state and will remain open until 7 p.m. Anyone in line at that time will still be able to vote.
The runoff brings to a close a bitter fight between Warnock, the state’s first Black senator and the senior minister of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and Walker, a former University of Georgia football star and political novice who has waged his bid in the mold of former President Donald Trump.
A victory for Warnock would solidify Georgia’s status as a battleground heading into the 2024 presidential election. A win for Walker, however, could be an indication that the Democratic gains in the state might be somewhat limited, especially given that Georgia Republicans swept every other statewide contest last month.
In that election, Warnock led Walker by about 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast but fell shy of a majority, triggering the second round of voting. About 1.9 million votes already have been cast by mail and during early voting, an advantage for Democrats whose voters more commonly cast ballots this way. Walker’s campaign hopes to counteract that surge by drawing at least 60% of the Election Day vote, where Republicans typically fare better.
Warnock, whose victory in 2021 was in a special election to serve out the remainder of GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term, sounded a confident note Monday during a packed day of campaigning. He predicted that he had convinced enough voters, including independents and moderate Republicans who supported Kemp, that he deserves a full term.
“They’ve seen that I will work with anybody that helps me to do good work for the people of Georgia,” said the 53-year-old senator. “I think they’re going to get this right. They know this race is about competence and character.”
Walker campaigned Monday with his wife, Julie, greeting supporters and offering thanks rather than his usual campaign speech.
“I love y’all, and we’re gonna win this election,” he said at a winery in Ellijay, comparing it to championships he won as an athlete. “I love winning championships.”
Warnock’s campaign has spent about $170 million on the campaign, far outpacing Walker’s nearly $60 million, according to their latest federal disclosures. But Democratic and Republican party committees, along with other political action committees, have spent even more.
The senator has paired his push for bipartisanship with an emphasis on his personal values, buoyed by his status as senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. And, beginning with the closing stretch before the Nov. 8 general election, Warnock added withering takedowns of Walker, using the football star’s rocky past to argue that the political newcomer was “not ready” and “not fit” for high office.
Walker, who used his athletics fame to coast to the GOP nomination, has sought to portray Warnock as a yes-man for President Joe Biden. Walker has sometimes made the attack in especially personal terms, complete with accusing Warnock of having his “back bent” and “being on his knees, begging” at the White House — a searing charge for a Black challenger to level against a Black senator about his relationship with a white president.
After the general election, Biden, who has struggled with low approval ratings, promised to help Warnock in any way he could, even if it meant staying away from Georgia. Bypassing the president, Warnock decided instead to campaign with former President Barack Obama in the days before the runoff election.
For his part, Walker was endorsed by Trump but avoided campaigning with him until the campaign’s final day: The pair conducted a conference call Monday with supporters, according to a Republican National Committee spokesperson.
Walker’s candidacy is the GOP’s last chance to flip a Senate seat this year. Dr. Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Blake Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire, all Trump loyalists, already lost competitive Senate races that Republicans once considered part of their path to a majority.