Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent from Georgia, is projected to beat Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the state’s runoff election to win a full six-year term in the Senate, according to NBC News.
Warnock’s projected victory over Walker will give Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate, a potentially crucial boost that caps much-better-than-expected midterm elections for the party in control of the White House.
It also marks a major loss for former President Donald Trump, who had championed Walker and campaigned for him. Trump was already under fire from some Republicans after many of his handpicked candidates underperformed in key midterm races, helping Democrats keep majority control of the upper chamber of Congress.
“Thank you, Georgia. We did it again,” Warnock tweeted Tuesday night.
Walker gave what was essentially a concession speech to a crowd at his election watch party around 11 p.m. ET. “I’m not going to make any excuses because we put up one heck of a fight,” Walker said.
The outcome of Georgia’s protracted, bitterly competitive Senate contest could have a major impact on Congress, both for the remainder of President Joe Biden‘s first term and for the 2024 cycle, when Democrats again face a tough electoral map.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 06: Georgia Democratic Senate candidate U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) speaks during an election night watch party at the Marriott Marquis on December 6, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Sen. Warnock has tonight defeated his Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win Mcnamee | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The race went to a runoff after neither Warnock nor Walker won more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 8 general election. While Warnock got more votes than Walker, third-party candidate Chase Oliver, a Libertarian, secured just over 2% of the vote, keeping either of the two main contenders from clinching a majority, according to NBC News’ count.
But only Warnock and Walker were on the ballot for the runoff, eliminating any potential coattail effect that Walker might have benefited from in November, when Georgia’s GOP Gov. Brian Kemp handily won reelection.
Instead, Walker’s gaffe- and scandal-plagued campaign was on full display, as more reports about the former NFL star’s personal life continued to come out in the runoff period.
Republicans circled the wagons around the ex-NFL star after The Daily Beast and other news outlets reported that Walker, who expressed staunchly anti-abortion views on the campaign trail, had paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion years earlier. Walker denied the allegations, even as his adult son Christian Walker castigated his father on social media. Less than two weeks before the midterms, a second woman came forward to claim Walker had pushed her to get an abortion.
Christian Walker pointed the finger at Trump after Walker’s projected loss.
“The Truth: Trump called my dad for months DEMANDING that he run,” Christian tweeted Tuesday night. “Everyone with a brain begged him: ‘PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. This is too dirty, you have an insane past… PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.’ We got the middle finger. He ran.”
Walker’s personal life had already been under scrutiny before those allegations came to light. Earlier in the campaign, Walker had acknowledged fathering multiple other children who were not previously known to be related to him. The Senate bid has also raised questions about Walker’s mental health, and accusations by Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, resurfaced that he had been abusive and threatening toward her.
Just last week, The Daily Beast reported allegations by Cheryl Parsa, an ex-girlfriend of Walker’s, accusing the Senate candidate of violent behavior and infidelity.
Warnock’s win will provide Democrats with critical leverage in the Senate, after nearly two years in which the chamber was split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris held the tiebreaking vote. With a 51-49 majority, Democrats will gain majorities on key Senate committees, which could make it easier for them to confirm nominees.
It could also lessen the outsize influence wielded by a few moderate Democrats, especially Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose votes were necessary for Democrats to pass legislation through the evenly split chamber.