ATLANTA — Georgia’s U.S. Senate race will be decided in a runoff between Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker in a race that could determine control of the Senate.
Neither candidate will garner the 50% of the vote needed to clinch the seat outright under state rules. The two Senate hopefuls now head to a Dec. 6 runoff.
With nearly all results in, neither Warnock nor Walker had earned the majority vote.
Less than a percentage point separated the two candidates — slightly more than 35,000 votes out of 3.9 million cast. Libertarian Chase Oliver netted about 2% of the vote. Elections officials said Wednesday that fewer than 20,000 ballots were left to be counted.
Interim Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling said that while votes still need to be counted, “we feel it is safe to say there will be a runoff for the U.S. Senate here in Georgia slated for Dec. 6.”
Georgia’s contest is one of three U.S. Senate races — along with Arizona and Nevada — that remained too close to call Wednesday morning and which could ultimately determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill.
That sets up a potential replay of 2021 when a pair of runoff races in the state became the center of political gravity, becoming the most expensive congressional contests in U.S. history and ultimately handing control of the Senate to Democrats.
The runoff will generate a fresh round of spending — and even more ads — in an election season that’s already smashed midterm records. It will also bring bracing new attacks in an already bitter rivalry.
The top aides to both candidates gave a taste of what’s to come during some online sparring. Warnock campaign manager Quentin Folks shot first by saying Walker “significantly underperformed” in a political climate that benefited Republicans.
Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise swung back: “More than 50% of Georgians voted against the incumbent that spent more than $100 million.”
The runoff will be a very different affair than it was during the 2020 campaign cycle. Since then, Georgia law has changed to shorten the overtime phase from nine weeks to four weeks.
The condensed cycle forces the candidates to more quickly rev up their efforts to raise cash, mobilize voters and hit the campaign trail. But the biggest factor — whether the race will determine control of the Senate — is still up in the air.
If Georgia winds up deciding which party rules the Senate, Walker’s chances could get a boost. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings remain below 40% in Georgia, and polls indicate many GOP voters are open to looking past their concerns with Walker to vote to flip control of the chamber.
But if control of the Senate is clearly decided for either party, it could better Warnock’s chances. Republicans would no longer be able to frame the race as a check on Democratic control, and GOP voters concerned about Walker’s personal issues may have less of a reason to turn out to vote, especially without Kemp on the ballot.