Raphael Warnock defeats Herschel Walker in Georgia election run-off

Democratic incumbent's win delivers a Senate majority for President Joe Biden but deals a blow to Donald Trump's re-election hopes

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Raphael Warnock, the incumbent Democratic senator for Georgia, has won re-election against Donald Trump-endorsed Republican candidate Herschel Walker, securing a 51-seat majority for his party in the Senate.

Cold temperatures and a slight drizzle did not deter voters from queuing up before 7.00am, when polls opened for in-person voting with more than 1.8 million people casting early ballots — an unprecedented turnout for a run-off election.

Georgia is one of two states that require 50 per cent of the vote in a general election, which Mr Warnock failed to achieve in the midterms.

Warnock supporters react to the news that their candidate has won. Getty / AFP

Mr Warnock's win makes him the first black politician from the Peach State to serve a six-year term and will help US President Joe Biden clear a backlog of unconfirmed judicial and ambassadorial nominees.

It could also signal Republican voters' attitudes towards a 2024 presidential run by Mr Trump. This was the last Senate race featuring Trump-endorsed candidates. Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Blake Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada and Don Bolduc of New Hampshire all lost their bids.

Mr Warnock campaigned tirelessly on a message of inclusion, with volunteers canvassing Buford Highway in Atlanta, an area of the city with immigrant-owned restaurants and shops, halal markets and shisha lounges where they handed out campaign literature in Vietnamese, Mandarin, Korean and other languages.

Signs depicting former president Barack Obama with the late congressman John Lewis and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr urging people to vote dotted the city.

Mr Obama arrived — twice — to campaign for Mr Warnock as did his Morehouse College classmate the film director Spike Lee and Grammy award-winner Dave Matthews.

Walker supporters receive the news that their candidate has lost. AP

Tuesday night’s result closes the door on one of the most expensive and contentious races in the country.

Mr Warnock’s camp spent about $170 million, well over Mr Walker’s $60 million, according to their latest federal disclosures. Democratic and Republican party and political action committees spent even more.

At the beginning of the race, Mr Warnock was careful not to bring personal issues to the table, but his campaign has since leaned into pointing out Mr Walker's character flaws.

His campaign pointed out that Mr Walker has fathered three children out of wedlock, though he has never acknowledged them publicly — a direct contradiction of his scathing criticism of absentee fathers.

In a political advertisement paid for by Republican Accountability, his ex-wife, Cindy DeAngelis Grossman, describes alleged abuse she experienced at the hands of the former sports star.

“He held the gun to my head. He held the gun to my temple and said he was going to blow my brains out,” Ms Grossman says in the advertisement.

During an interview with ABC News’s Bob Woodruff in a 2008, Mr Walker said that he “probably did it”, but does not remember. And less than a week ago, another former girlfriend of Mr Walker's came forward with abuse accusations, which he chose not to address.

But Mr Walker's campaign has made its own accusations, with one recent advertisement delving into allegations of domestic abuse and rumours that Mr Warnock's church evicted tenants from an apartment community they own.

Mr Warnock, who is pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, has denied the allegations, which have also been rejected by tenants and the community's management company.

“I don't consider myself a senator who used to be a pastor. I'm a pastor who serves in the Senate,” Mr Warnock said. “The same values that guided me to the pulpit are what inspire me today.”

Updated: December 07, 2022, 2:40 PM
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