Raphael Warnock beats Herschel Walker in Georgia to give Democrats 51-49 Senate advantage

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Senator Raphael Warnock triumphed in his second straight runoff in as many years when the Democratic incumbent fended off Republican nominee and college football legend Herschel Walker to give Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

The candidates faced each other in a runoff election after neither candidate received a majority of the vote in the general election in November. Mr Warnock had previously won a special election to finish the term of retiring Senator Johnny Isakson. He will now serve a full six-year term in the Senate.

Mr Warnock defeated Mr Walker as multiple scandals plagued him from the beginning. Former president Donald Trump had floated the idea of the former University of Georgia running back and Heisman Trophy winner running for Senate last year.

But Mr Walker faced multiple allegations about his personal life. Most notably, despite saying he did not believe in any exceptions for abortion, two women came forward saying he helped with their abortions - one saying that he paid for her procedure and another saying he accompanied her to an abortion clinic.

The allegations came in the shadow of the Supreme Court voting to overturn Roe v Wade, which protected the right to seek an abortion, in its Dobbs v Jackson decision.

Mr Walker also attempted to obfuscate allegations about domestic violence against his ex-wife and former partners by speaking about his difficulties with dissociative identity disorder.

The race also highlighted multiple instances of Mr Walker’s murky relationship with the truth. Stories abounded of him having secret children and claims that he worked in law enforcement. Mr Warnock tended to refrain from criticising his Republican opponent’s personal life, except when Mr Warnock criticised Mr Walker for pretending to be a police officer in their sole debate, Mr Walker bizarrely pulled out an honorary badge.

Mr Warnock’s victory serves as an important test for Democrats to see whether they can remain competitive 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 a month after the initial election instead of two months afterward.

Mr Warnock’s victory also means that Democrats held every Senate seat that was up for re-election this cycle despite general dissatisfaction with Mr Biden’s performance. Democrats defended incumbents in Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire and also flipped an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, when John Fetterman beat television doctor Mehmet Oz.

The 51-49 margin in the Senate also means that Senate committees will no longer be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and that Democrats will have full subpoena power.

Still, Democrats will likely still be limited in what they can accomplish since Republicans flipped the House of Representatives by a narrow margin. In addition, they do not have enough votes to abolish the filibuster- the 60-vote threshhold - since conservative Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oppose doing so along with every other Republican Senator.