Warnock Wins GA Runoff Against Walker 12/07 06:11

Warnock Wins GA Runoff Against Walker  12/07 06:11


   ATLANTA (AP) -- Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican 
challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff election Tuesday, ensuring 
Democrats an outright majority in the Senate for the rest of President Joe 
Biden's current term and capping an underwhelming midterm cycle for the GOP in 
the last major vote of the year.

   With Warnock's second runoff victory in as many years, Democrats will have a 
51-49 Senate majority, gaining a seat from the current 50-50 split with John 
Fetterman's victory in Pennsylvania. There will be divided government, however, 
with Republicans having narrowly flipped House control.

   "After a hard-fought campaign -- or, should I say, campaigns -- it is my 
honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The 
people have spoken," Warnock, 53, told jubilant supporters who packed a 
downtown Atlanta hotel ballroom.

   "I often say that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for 
ourselves and for our children," declared Warnock, a Baptist pastor and his 
state's first Black senator. "Georgia, you have been praying with your lips and 
your legs, your hands and your feet, your heads and your hearts. You have put 
in the hard work, and here we are standing together."

   In last month's election, Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votes out of almost 4 
million cast, but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The 
senator appeared to be headed for a wider final margin in Tuesday's runoff, 
with Walker, a football legend at the University of Georgia and in the NFL, 
unable to overcome a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims that he 
paid for two former girlfriends' abortions despite supporting a national ban on 
the procedure.

   "The numbers look like they're not going to add up," Walker, an ally and 
friend of former President Donald Trump, told supporters late Tuesday at the 
College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. "There's no excuses in life, 
and I'm not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a 

   Democrats' Georgia victory solidifies the state's place as a Deep South 
battleground two years after Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won 
2021 runoffs that gave the party Senate control just months after Biden became 
the first Democratic presidential candidate in 30 years to win Georgia. Voters 
returned Warnock to the Senate in the same cycle they reelected Republican Gov. 
Brian Kemp by a comfortable margin and chose an all-GOP slate of statewide 
constitutional officers.

   Walker's defeat bookends the GOP's struggles this year to win with flawed 
candidates cast from Trump's mold, a blow to the former president as he builds 
his third White House bid ahead of 2024.

   Democrats' new outright majority in the Senate means the party will no 
longer have to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Republicans and won't have 
to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to break as many tie votes.

   National Democrats celebrated Tuesday, with Biden tweeting a photo of his 
congratulatory phone call to the senator. "Georgia voters stood up for our 
democracy, rejected Ultra MAGAism, and ... sent a good man back to the Senate," 
Biden tweeted, referencing Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

   About 1.9 million runoff votes were cast in Georgia by mail and during early 
voting. A robust Election Day turnout added about 1.4 million more, slightly 
more than the Election Day totals in November and in 2020.

   Total turnout still trailed the 2021 runoff turnout of about 4.5 million. 
Voting rights groups pointed to changes made by state lawmakers after the 2020 
election that shortened the period for runoffs, from nine weeks to four, as a 
reason for the decline in early and mail voting.

   Warnock emphasized his willingness to work across the aisle and his personal 
values, buoyed by his status as senior pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist 
Church, where civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

   Walker benefited during the campaign from nearly unmatched name recognition 
from his football career, yet was dogged by questions about his fitness for 

   A multimillionaire businessman, Walker faced questions about his past, 
including his exaggerations of his business achievements, academic credentials 
and philanthropic activities.

   In his personal life, Walker faced new attention on his ex-wife's previous 
accounts of domestic violence, including details that he once held a gun to her 
head and threatened to kill her. He has never denied those specifics and wrote 
of his violent tendencies in a 2008 memoir that attributed the behavior to 
mental illness.

   As a candidate, he sometimes mangled policy discussions, attributing the 
climate crisis to China's "bad air" overtaking "good air" from the United 
States and arguing that diabetics could manage their health by "eating right," 
a practice that isn't enough for insulin-dependent diabetic patients.

   On Tuesday, Atlanta voter Tom Callaway praised the Republican Party's 
strength in Georgia and said he'd supported Kemp in the opening round of 
voting. But he said he cast his ballot for Warnock because he didn't think 
"Herschel Walker has the credentials to be a senator."

   "I didn't believe he had a statement of what he really believed in or had a 
campaign that made sense," Callaway said.

   Walker, meanwhile, sought to portray Warnock as a yes-man for Biden. He 
sometimes made the attack in especially personal terms, accusing Warnock of 
"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.

   Warnock promoted his Senate accomplishments, touting a provision he 
sponsored to cap insulin costs for Medicare patients. He hailed deals on 
infrastructure and maternal health care forged with Republican senators, 
mentioning those GOP colleagues more than he did Biden or other Washington 

   Warnock distanced himself from Biden, whose approval ratings have lagged as 
inflation remains high. After the general election, Biden 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.

   Walker, meanwhile, avoided campaigning with Trump until the campaign's final 
day, when the pair conducted a conference call Monday with supporters.

   Walker joins failed Senate nominees Dr. Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Blake 
Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire as 
Trump loyalists who ultimately lost races that Republicans once thought they 
would -- or at least could -- win.

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