Sign up for the daily Inside Washington email for exclusive US coverage and analysis delivered to your inbox
Get our free Inside Washington email
Senator Raphael Warnock won his second straight runoff when the Democratic incumbent held off Republican nominee and college football legend Herschel Walker to give Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
The candidates faced off in November’s general election after no candidate received a majority of the vote. Mr Warnock had previously won a special election to unseat retiring Senator Johnny Isakson. He will now serve a full six years in the Senate.
Mr Warnock defeated Mr Walker as a series of scandals plagued him early on. Former President Donald Trump floated the idea of the former University of Georgia running back and Heisman Trophy winner running for Senate last year.
But Mr Walker has faced a series of allegations about his personal life. Most notably, despite saying he believes in no exceptions for abortion, two women have come forward to say he helped them get abortions — one saying he paid for her procedure and the other saying he went with her to an abortion clinic.
The charges came in the shadow of the Supreme Court’s vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, which protected the right to seek an abortion in its Dobbs v. Jackson decision.
Mr Walker tried to obscure allegations of domestic violence against his ex-wife and ex-partners by citing his difficulties with dissociative identity disorder.
Race also provides multiple examples of Mr. Walker’s ambiguous relationship with truth. Stories abound of her having secret children and claims that she worked in law enforcement. While Mr Warnock refrained from criticizing his Republican opponent’s personal life, when Mr Warnock criticized Mr Walker for pretending to be a police officer in their only debate, Mr Walker strangely pulled out a badge of honour.
Mr. Warnock’s victory serves as an important test for Democrats to see if they can compete in Georgia, two years after President Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.
That same year, Mr. Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff advanced to a runoff election and won their seats on 5 January 2021. But Georgia’s new voter law truncated the runoff calendar, meaning the election took place one month after the primary election instead of two months later. .
Mr. Warnock’s victory meant that Democrats held every Senate seat up for re-election this cycle, despite general dissatisfaction with Mr. Biden’s performance. Democrats protected incumbents in Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire and also flipped an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, when John Fetterman defeated television doctor Mehmet Oz.
A 51-49 split in the Senate means Senate committees will no longer be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and Democrats will have full subpoena power.
Still, Democrats will likely be limited in what they can do as Republicans flip the House of Representatives by a narrow margin. Additionally, they do not have enough votes to override the filibuster—the 60-vote threshold—since conservative Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona oppose doing so, along with every other Republican senator.