Warnock vs Walker

The significance and nuances of the Georgia Senate Race


Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

Sayana Gupta, Contributor

On December 6, Democrat Raphael Warnock beat Republican Herschel Walker in a fight to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. While this election was important for Georgians, it was also an election watched closely across the nation. Warnock’s win gave Democrats a clearer majority in the Senate.

For the past two years, the Senate has been divided 50–50, resulting in lengthy negotiations between the two parties and legislative gridlock. While Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris is the Senate president, she is only allowed to break a tie, not to routinely vote. The win by Warnock means that there are 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans on the voting floor. The additional vote allows Democrats to have additional seats on committees, empower committee chairs to issue subpoenas, quickly approve President Biden’s nominees, confirm judges, and pass legislation.

The December 2022 election between Warnock and Walker was a runoff since neither candidate received a majority of the vote in the November 2022 general election. Warnock is a pastor as well as the incumbent, having been first elected to the office in January 2021. Walker is a famed former National Football League running back and was strongly supported by former President Donald Trump. However, the race was filled with scandal. While Walker ran a campaign focused on conservative values, it was discovered that he had several out-of-wedlock children, paid for former female partners to have abortions, and maintained a home in Texas (rather than Georgia) as his primary residence. Yet the outcome of the race between the two men was very close, with Warnock receiving 51.6% of the vote vs. Walker’s 48.6%. As it was a very significant contest, it turned out to be one of the most expensive races in 2022 with more than $400 million spent to influence the outcome.

Warnock is no stranger to expensive runoff elections. When Republican Senator Johnny Isakson retired due to ill health in 2020, Republican Kelly Loeffler was selected to complete his term. During the November 2020 election, no candidate received a majority of the vote and a runoff was held between Warnock and Loeffler. Warnock won and became Georgia’s first black senator in January 2021. He retained his seat and gave Democrats a majority in the Senate in December 2022. Unfortunately for the Democrats, they lost their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives during these past midterms, thus putting them in control of only one house of Congress rather than the whole legislature. 

UPDATE: As we went to press, it was announced that Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema would be leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent, leaving the Senate split and forcing a power-sharing arrangement.