Senator Raphael Warnock is still unbeaten.
After being forced into another runoff in November, the Democrat asked Georgia voters to give him the win “one more time” in December – and they did.
Warnock has been the top vote-getter in four consecutive Georgia Senate elections since November 2020. However, because state law requires statewide candidates to obtain a majority in order to win a general election, Warnock had to repeat the feat in both his 2020 special election and his 2022 bid for a full six-year term.
His victory over Republican nominee Herschel Walker means Democrats will add to their already-secure Senate majority, with 51 seats to the GOP’s 49, and cement Georgia as a potentially decisive presidential battleground in 2024.
As the 2022 midterm election cycle comes to a close, here are five takeaways from Georgia’s final election night.
The addition of the 51st seat gives Democrats a true majority.
Democrats had already secured Senate control, with 50 seats secured last month, allowing Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote as she does now. But, as a result of Warnock’s victory on Tuesday, the Democrats in control of the Senate and President Joe Biden’s administration stand to gain significantly.
Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was photographed on Capitol Hill.
What a Senate majority of 51-49 means for Democrats
The party will now enter 2023 with a true Senate majority, eliminating the need for the power-sharing agreement that has been in place in an evenly divided chamber for the last two years. Democrats will have an outright majority on committees, allowing them to advance Biden’s nominees more easily.
For example, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 22 members will change from 11 Democrats to 11 Republicans to 12 Democrats to 10 Republicans. This eliminates a GOP procedural mechanism used to stall the confirmation of Biden’s judicial nominees.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders face a lower risk that a single senator will hold the party’s priorities hostage, because the party can now afford to lose a vote. Harris, who has already cast the third-most tie-breaking votes of any vice president, and the most since John Calhoun nearly 200 years ago, would be less beholden to Congress.
It’s also a boost for Democrats ahead of the 2024 election, when they’ll have to defend several seats in deep-red states like West Virginia and Montana to keep their majority.
Until further notice, Georgia is a swing state.
Georgia is poised to be a crucial Election Day battleground as long as former President Donald Trump remains an influential figure in Republican politics, especially when federal offices are on the ballot.
If there was any doubt before Tuesday, it is now gone.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, and Herschel Walker will face off in the runoff election on Tuesday.
Walker was Trump’s hand-picked candidate to take on Warnock during the election season, and he flamed out despite first running on a ticket with a popular Republican governor and then, this time, with that same governor’s express endorsement and support on the campaign trail.
Kemp’s inability to pull Walker over the finish line says more about the state’s shifting partisan alignment than it does about him – or even Walker, a flawed candidate in any setting. Changing demographics, an evolving economy, and Democrats’ strategic, tenacious organizing have transformed a symbol of the Old South into a legitimate swing state.
Now fast forward to 2024.
The Democratic turnout machine strikes once more.
Following the 2020 election, Georgia Republicans passed a contentious law that, among other things, shortened the time between a November election and a potential runoff, resulting in a condensed timeline that narrowed the window for mail-in voters and reduced the number of days to vote early in-person.
It didn’t make a difference.
The Democratic turnout machine in Georgia over the past four weeks – with a running start dating back years and owing heavily to the groundwork done by Stacey Abrams and her allies – once again delivered in a hotly contested race that drew tens of millions of dollars in campaign and national organization spending.
While the final number of votes cast is unknown, early in-person turnout for this year’s runoff was lower than in 2021. This is because the new law reduced the time between votes from nine to four weeks. The state’s single-day early voting record was repeatedly broken during the final week of pre-election day balloting.
Turnout was especially high in key Democratic strongholds, such as larger metro areas and suburban areas that turned blue after former President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Georgia, six years later, is not only a symbol of Trump’s apparent drag on the GOP, but also a model for Democrats looking to capitalize on it.
Trump fails to secure another Senate seat.
Trump attempted to use the 2022 midterm elections to pack congressional majorities and statehouses with allies who owed their positions to Trump’s endorsement ahead of his third presidential run. Instead, he backed a string of flawed, divisive candidates who lost races that the GOP was expected to win. Walker joined the list of gubernatorial losers that includes Blake Masters in Arizona and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, as well as Kari Lake in Arizona, Tim Michels in Wisconsin, Tudor Dixon in Michigan, and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.
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Ex-Trump According to a White House official, Trump is responsible for Walker’s loss.
01:21 a.m. – CNN
Since 1992, no Republican presidential candidate had lost Georgia. With Trump up for reelection, Democrats won the presidency in 2020 and both Senate seats in 2021 runoffs. They then won a Senate seat again this year, defeating a candidate pushed into the race by the former president.
The losses have immediate ramifications: Trump has already declared his candidacy for president in 2024. Every Republican defeat pushed by Trump is likely to enrage donors, embolden potential rivals, and erode GOP voters’ faith in Trump’s political power.
The blame game that began four weeks ago will likely continue after Walker’s defeat, amplifying calls for the GOP to look elsewhere for leadership.
Kemp is unable to persuade the ticket-splitters.
Gov. of Georgia Brian Kemp kept his distance from Walker as he cruised to reelection in this year’s rematch with Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, garnering 2.1 million votes, nearly 200,000 more than Walker received in November against Warnock.
Despite the governor’s animosity toward Trump, Kemp embraced his party’s Senate nominee more fully after his victory.
Kemp’s goal was to persuade some of the tens of thousands of ticket-splitters to back the Republican nominee in the runoff. He appeared at rallies alongside Walker, cut television ads for the former University of Georgia football star, and even loaned the get-out-the-vote operation that helped propel Walker to victory to a Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell-aligned super PAC to help Walker.
It was a stark contrast to Trump’s approach, which included a televised rally for Walker on the eve of the election but did little else to help Walker in the runoff. And if Walker had won, Kemp would have deserved a large portion of the credit.
Georgia’s runoff, on the other hand, demonstrated a lesson that former President Barack Obama and, later, Trump had to learn: Voters’ support isn’t always transferable. Without Kemp on the ballot, many of the same moderate suburbanites who voted against Walker in November voted against him again in the runoff.