Raphael Warnock wins re-election in Georgia, giving Democrats an outright Senate majority

Raphael Warnock wins re-election in Georgia, giving Democrats an outright Senate majority

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won a full six-year term by defeating Republican Herschel Walker in Tuesday’s runoff in Georgia, a victory that gives his party an outright 51-49 majority in the upper chamber.

While Democratic control of the Senate was assured once it became clear that Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto had secured a second term last month, the stakes were still high in Georgia. Warnock’s win leaves his caucus far less reliant on its least reliable members, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and gives the party some welcome breathing room ahead of a tough 2024 map. Democrats will also hold majorities on previously tied committees, which will allow them to issue subpoenas without any Republican support and speed up procedures for bringing judicial nominations to the floor.

Warnock, who became Georgia’s first African American senator after he won a special election runoff in January of last year, edged out Walker 49-48 on Nov. 8, which was just below the majority that the Peach State requires to avert a runoff because of a 1964 law originally designed to undermine Black voters. The following four weeks saw the incumbent and his allies massively outspend Walker’s side in a contest that took place as two of the most prominent GOP groups, the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund, were openly feuding with one another.

Democratic ads emphasized the many scandals surrounding Walker, including allegations that the former University of Georgia football legend had threatened to kill both his ex-wife and son and had pressured two former girlfriends to have abortions. Other spots focused on Walker’s own embarrassing behavior during the campaign, including a rambling speech in which he declared, “I don’t want to be a vampire anymore. I want to be a werewolf.”

Warnock also worked to tie Walker to Donald Trump, who helped saddle his party with its disastrous nominee in the first place when he convinced the longtime Texas resident to return to Georgia to run for office. Conservative commentator Erick Erickson told Politico in the days leading up to the runoff, “There is a palpable sense of frustration with Georgia Republicans who saw their entire statewide slate win except the guy Trump convinced to get into the race, and there is a lingering sense of frustration that anyone else would have won, and Herschel’s baggage weighed him down.”

Walker’s side, in addition to running its own ads trying to call Warnock’s character into question, pushed back with several ads starring Gov. Brian Kemp, who decisively won re-election last month. Kemp, though, didn’t seem to want to associate himself with Walker’s chaotic effort any more than he actually had to, as he didn’t campaign with his party’s nominee during the final week of the runoff.

Warnock’s win makes this the first midterm since 1962 when Democrats netted Senate seats while controlling the White House; that previous election took place just days after John F. Kennedy successfully resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis. And until now, the last midterm where the president’s party didn’t lose a single Senate seat was 1934, when Franklin Roosevelt was in charge. This was also the first time since FDR’s first midterm that the president’s party netted both Senate and gubernatorial seats.

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