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Georgia runoff 2022 highlights: Warnock defeats Walker, NBC News projects

Warnock’s victory gives Democrats a more comfortable 51-seat majority in the Senate.

What to know about Tuesday's runoff

Key takeaways: Warnock’s win expands Democrats' power in the Senate

ATLANTA — Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock wrapped up his “one more time” tour with a victory Tuesday in the runoff, defeating Republican rival Herschel Walker to secure a six-year term.

Here are four takeaways from the Georgia runoff.

  • Warnock's star rises: Warnock has been on the ballot five times in a roughly two-year span and finished first each time. Along the way he has dispensed with three Republican contenders. It’s a remarkable feat for a political newcomer in two different political environments, and even more so for the first Black person elected senator from Georgia, once a bastion of the Confederacy.
  • Democrats expand Senate power: Warnock’s victory gives Democrats their 51st seat — an outright majority that ends their reliance on Vice President Kamala Harris for tie-breaking votes. That means smoother sailing on executive nominees and judges. It also means more power for Democrats to issue subpoenas without Republican buy-in, setting up a contrast to the GOP-controlled House’s plans to aggressively investigate the Biden administration. And it means that no single member, like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., can make or break the party’s agenda.

Read the rest here.

Christian Walker lashes out at father after election loss

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Herschel Walker's son Christian Walker lashed out at his father on Twitter Tuesday night after his election loss.

"The Truth: Trump called my dad for months DEMANDING that he run. Everyone with a brain begged him: "PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. This is too dirty, you have an insane past… PLEASE DONT DO THIS. We got the middle finger. He ran," Christian Walker wrote in one tweet.

He continued, "Republicans, we say we don’t play "identity politics" and then you ran this man mainly because he was the same skin color as his opponent with no background other than football. A boring old Republican could have won."

Walker also attacked the GOP contender for not raising him and his other kids, and choosing to chase "chases more fame and power" instead.

Herschel Walker’s loss is just more bad news for Trump

WASHINGTON — The Trump train is stuck in the station, and it was weighed down Tuesday with the new baggage of corporate tax-fraud convictions and a final midterm defeat.

In the three weeks since former President Donald Trump launched his comeback bid from a ballroom of his Mar-a-Lago club, he has exhibited little of the energy that made him a force in national politics, but many of the behaviors that led voters to oust him two years ago, according to Republican strategists. 

During his short campaign, Trump has dominated headlines by dining with the rapper Ye, who has gone on antisemitic tirades in recent weeks, and the white nationalist Nick Fuentes. More recently, Trump advocated for the “termination” of articles of the Constitution as a means to overturn his 2020 defeat.

And on Tuesday night, Herschel Walker’s loss in a Georgia Senate runoff added an exclamation point to the argument that Trump hurt the GOP by picking a bad crop of candidates in swing states. Trump’s Monday tele-rally for Walker didn’t provide the necessary boost.

Read more here.

Raphael Warnock claims victory in Georgia Senate runoff

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks during an election night watch party on Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., at his election night watch party.Win McNamee / Getty Images

ATLANTA — Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., claimed victory in a speech to supporters here after NBC News projected his victory over Herschel Walker.

"Thank you Georgia!" he said. "I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart, and to God be the glory."

"And after a hard-fought campaign — or should I say campaigns — it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken."

The win gives Warnock, who was first elected in 2020 in a special election, a six-year term through 2028.

Warnock paid tribute to his mother, Verlene Warnock.

“She grew up in the 1950s in Waycross, Georgia, picking somebody else’s cotton and somebody else’s tobacco," he said. "But tonight she helped pick her youngest son to be a United States senator."

Herschel Walker appears to accept loss in speech

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Walker spoke to a crowd of his supporters around 11 p.m. ET Tuesday after Warnock was declared the winner in their race. The GOP candidate thanked his team and donors, saying, "I’m not gonna make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight."

Walker said running for Senate was "the best thing I've ever done in my whole entire life" beyond winning Heisman trophies and winning athletic awards and business awards.

"I want you to continue to believe in this country, believe in our elected officials and most of all, stay together," he said. "Don’t let anyone separate you. Don’t let anyone tell you that we can’t, because I’m here to tell you we can."

He concluded his speech by telling his supporters to "always cast your vote no matter whatever's happening" and to "never, never, never give up."

Senate Democrats celebrate Warnock's win, giving them a 51st seat

Senate Democrats lauded Sen. Raphael Warnock’s victory in the Senate runoff contest, tweeting celebratory congratulations after NBC News and other news outlets called the race.

“51!” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. tweeted, in reference to Warnock giving the party their fifty-first seat in the Senate. Schumer added that Warnock’s “well-earned victory is a victory for Georgia, and a victory for democracy and against MAGA Republican extremist policies.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., tweeted, “Warnock wins!” while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted a “Woo-hoo,” for Warnock “heading back to the Senate."

Warnock supporters celebrate with 'All I Do Is Win'

Supporters at Warnock's election night party celebrated shortly after NBC News projected his victory.

The crowd erupted in cheers as DJ Khaled's 2010 hit "All I Do Is Win" (which features Georgia native Ludacris) played. Warnock has now been on the ballot in Georgia five times in about two years — one Democratic primary, two general elections and two runoffs — and won each time.

Biden tells reporters 'we're going to win' moments before NBC News projection

Moments before NBC News called the race for Warnock, President Joe Biden predicted the Democratic incumbent would win re-election in the Senate runoff race.

“We’re going to win. We’re going to win Georgia,” Biden said in response to questions regarding his outlook on the Georgia Senate runoff contest as he exited Air Force One Tuesday night.

Warnock defeated Walker, NBC News projects.

Warnock defeats Walker in Georgia Senate runoff, NBC News projects

Sen. Raphael Warnock has won his second statewide runoff election in the last two years, defeating Republican Herschel Walker in the increasingly purple state of Georgia to capture a six-year term in the Senate, NBC News projected.

The contentious contest caps a 2022 midterm cycle that was unexpectedly bright for Democrats as GOP candidates faltered in key contests, particularly those backed by former President Donald Trump, like Walker. Warnock’s victory gives Democrats a more comfortable 51-seat majority in the Senate.

The Senate runoff election is still too close to call, but Warnock leads

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

The Senate runoff election between Warnock and Walker is still too close to call, but Warnock leads, NBC News' Decision Desk said just before 10 p.m. ET.

Spike Lee shows up for Warnock, mocks Trump as 'Agent Orange'

Spike Lee talks with Roland Martin, right, during an election night watch party for Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., on Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta.
Spike Lee talks with Roland Martin, right, during an election night watch party for Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., on Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta.Win McNamee / Getty Images

ATLANTA — Spike Lee made an appearance at Sen. Raphael Warnock’s election night party here on Tuesday, touting his Georgia roots and highlighting the importance of the runoff election.

“I was born in Atlanta, Georgia… I feel home,” he told the crowd. “We will not be denied, because we’re on the right side of herstory and history.”

He also took a thinly veiled jab at former President Donald Trump, calling him “Agent Orange” — but declining to say his name.

Positive vibes at Warnock's election night party

ATLANTA — At Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s election night party, both the mood and music were upbeat as the results trickled in more than an hour and a half after polls closed.

“We’re gonna win this race tonight!” the emcee said in a musical tone, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Various speakers took turns at the mic to shower praise on Warnock and keep the crowd optimistic. His campaign staffers maintained confidence as they made their way around the Marriott Marquis room booked for the event.

Race is now too close to call, according to NBC News

The runoff race between Warnock and Walker is too close to call, according to NBC News.

As of 8:45 p.m. ET — with 62% of the vote counted — Walker led Warnock 50.8% to 49.2%, or by around 35,000 votes.

Read more results here.

Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling says 'record turnout' in Senate runoff

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling said in an interview on CNN that he believes nearly 3.3 million people cast votes in the Senate runoff, which he called a record.

Sterling, the chief operating officer in Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office, said the votes are coming in at a quick pace and might slow down once 2.5 million votes are counted.

"What I do know is we have record turnout today, record turnout in the early voting, record usage of absentee ballots, so the people of Georgia were very excited to vote," he said, adding that no one was "discouraged from voting."

"We had more people vote early in the midterm runoff than voted in the entire midterm runoff four years ago," he said.

The turnout in the Senate runoff was nearly 75% to 80% of the entire turnout for the midterm election in November.

Walker voter says he's 'not a Donald Trump fan'

Duane Cochenour, a 61-year-old attorney, cast a vote in his midtown Atlanta precinct for Walker. But he said he’s “not crazy about” the Republican and was reluctant to support him.

“I’m not a Donald Trump fan at all. I really wish he would go away. That’s my biggest negative in voting for Walker — I didn’t want to be perceived as a vote in favor of a Trump candidate,” Cochenour said, reflecting the mood that helped turn Georgia blue two years ago. “But I felt like the importance of taking the Senate back outweighed that.”

Read more from voters here.

Kornacki: ‘Good judgment’ question could factor into Georgia runoff

Raffensperger: At least 1.33 million voted in runoff on Tuesday

At least 1.33 million people voted in Georgia on Tuesday as of 6:00 p.m. ET, an hour before polls closed, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. That number approaches the nearly 1.5 million people who voted in the state on Election Day in November.

“That will push us very close to what we had for Election Day voting we had a month ago,“ Raffensperger said Tuesday night on CNN.

The more than 1.33 million in-person voters on Tuesday are in addition to an excess of 1.85 million votes that were cast ahead of Tuesday’s contest, breaking records.

Polls close across Georgia, with the race too early to call

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Polls have closed in Georgia at 7 p.m. ET after opening at 7 a.m. The race is too early to call, according to NBC News projections.

The state allows anyone in line by 7 p.m. to still cast a ballot.

A brief history of Georgia runoffs

Tuesday marks the second election cycle in a row where the pivotal Georgia Senate race has ended with a runoff.

Runoffs occur in Georgia when no candidate wins a majority of the vote on the ballot — it’s happened 10 times since the 1992 election cycle, and Republicans have won seven out of those 10, according to election results posted by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

The two parties have largely split the runoffs over the last decade — Republicans won three (runoffs for the Public Service Commission in 2021 and 2018, as well as the 20218 secretary of state runoff) while Democrats won the two Senate runoffs in 2021.

Read more here.

Warnock, Walker make last push for votes in Georgia Senate runoff

Groups work to mobilize Latino voters in Georgia Senate runoff

From giving away bingo-like Mexican lotería cards to Taco Tuesdays and World Cup watch parties, Latino voting mobilization efforts ramped up in Georgia leading into the Senate runoff election.

Latino voters are expected to be consequential in determining who Georgia will send to the Senate.

Even though Latinos are roughly 5% of all voters in Georgia, they still “could be that key group,” said Matt Barreto, president and co-founder of the national firm BSP Research, which mainly focuses on Democratic polling.

Read more here.

Polls close soon in critical Georgia Senate runoff

Polls are closing at 7 p.m. ET in the Senate runoff election in Georgia, where Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is hoping to fend off a challenge from Republican Herschel Walker.

Voters faced rain and some long lines as both parties worked to drive people to the polls for the second time in as many months for the runoff, which was triggered by state law because neither candidate won an outright majority in the November election.

Democrats are feeling confident about their chances thanks to a massive spending advantage and because more Democrats opted to vote early. A record-breaking 1.85 million ballots have already been cast. 

Republicans are hoping to turn the tide with a big turnout on Election Day, when most of their voters typically cast a ballot.

Read more here.

Democrats have a big Georgia ad spending edge. What does that look like to voters?

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has a massive ad-spending and fundraising advantage over Republican Herschel Walker in the runoff election.

But it’s sometimes hard to grasp what ad spending in the tens of millions means for the average Georgian. Our friends at AdImpact shared recent data with the NBC News Political Unit to help put the multi-million spending in perspective — on what the average television viewer might see in one day.

Read more here.

Walker campaign knows boosting Tuesday turnout is a 'f---ing ridiculously heavy lift'

Herschel Walker’s campaign started Tuesday believing he would win the votes cast on Election Day because that’s when Republicans typically turn out in greater numbers than Democrats. But, Walker’s campaign feared, it would be exceedingly difficult to win the runoff overall because his data gurus estimated that only 1 million voters would cast ballots on Tuesday, and that Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock was already ahead by more than 200,000 early votes.

Then, shortly after 2 p.m., the Walker campaign’s spirits brightened a bit when the Georgia Secretary of State's office estimated that Election Day turnout could reach 1.3 million.

“The higher the turnout, the better it is for us,” said one Walker adviser who didn’t want to speak publicly about private campaign estimates. The adviser added Walker could win the runoff if he captures 58 percent of the Election Day vote, in the event that turnout hits 1.3 million.

“That’s within the realm of possibility,” the adviser said. “It’s a f---ing ridiculously heavy lift. But it could’ve been heavier.”

Image: Georgia Holds Senate Runoff Election Between Rafael Warnock And Herschel Walke
Voters cast their ballots Tuesday in Norcross, Ga.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Ronna McDaniel gets a challenger for RNC chair

GOP attorney Harmeet Dhillon announced Monday night that she is running to chair the Republican National Committee, presenting another direct challenge to its current chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel.

Dhillon, a committeewoman from California who leads the Republican National Lawyers Association, announced on Fox News that she is jumping into the race.

“Republicans are tired of losing and I think that we really need to radically reshape our leadership in order to win,” she said. “And we can’t keep running elections like we did in the '90s and the 2000s.”

Read more here.

Asian American voters could help decide the Senate runoff in Georgia, experts say

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who make up 4.7% of the state’s electorate, might provide the margin of victory in an election that’s expected to be a close call, and the country is taking notice.

The last few weeks have seen the formation of Georgia’s first AAPI Caucus, the appearance of campaign ads in Asian languages, and the descent of national celebrities and organizations on Georgia to help get out the Asian vote.

Asian voter turnout nearly doubled in Georgia between 2016 and 2020, AAPI Data reported last year, and those ballots amounted to more than the margin with which President Joe Biden won the state. Leading up to the Dec. 6 runoff, both parties are coveting their vote.

“Georgia is an extremely competitive state, and we have over 100,000 South Asians and 250,000 Asian Americans,” said Neil Makhija, executive director of the civic organization Indian American Impact. “We have been the margin in the past and we can easily be the margin again.” 

Read more here.

HBCU students in Georgia face an extra obstacle in voting

When Lauren Nicks, a senior at Spelman College in Atlanta, cast her vote in last month’s midterms, she did so in her home state of New York.

Nicks, a 21-year-old international studies major at the historically Black college, had been told months earlier by fellow students about a law that does not allow students from private colleges and universities in the state to use their school ID as identification to vote — a rule she believed would prevent her from casting a ballot in Georgia.

As a result, she wasn’t able to vote for her preferred candidate, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, in November, or in next week’s runoff election either.

Her confusion emanated from a 16-year-old provision in Georgia voting law in which only IDs from state schools, not private schools, are considered an acceptable form of voter ID.

It’s a provision that voting rights experts say continues to confuse voters — especially college students or others who already face barriers — and results in many of them voting elsewhere or not at all. Furthermore, they argue it has a disproportionate impact on student voters of color, because seven out of 10 of Georgia’s historically Black colleges and universities are private institutions.

Read more here.

Canvassers encourage people to vote during the Senate runoff election

Members of Georgia Stand-Up and We Vote encourage people to vote in Georgia's runoff election
Steve Schaefer / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

GOP strategist critiques Walker: 'A formulaic campaign for a candidate who doesn't fit the formula'

A Georgia-based Republican strategist criticized Herschel Walker’s campaign on the eve of the runoff election, arguing that he has missed an opportunity to reach independent voters who could make or break his prospects.

“What we’ve seen is a formulaic campaign for a candidate who doesn’t fit the formula,” the strategist said on Monday, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the GOP nominee prior to the election.

“If you’d have called me 10 days ago, asked me what are you looking for Walker to do differently, what could he do to change the dynamic — I would tell you: He needs to get off his bus and walk Main Street and walk shopping centers. And get rid of all of the entourage and go back to talking to people, one on one, and be a community guy.”

Walker lost independent voters by 11 points to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in the general election, according to NBC News exit polls.

“That’s how you get those swing and independent voters — you connect with them personally, you look them in the eye and you shake their hand,” the strategist said. “It makes a difference connecting to those swing voters.”

Image: Herschel Walker Campaigns On Runoff Election Day In Georgia
Herschel Walker poses with patrons at a diner Tuesday in Marietta, Ga.Alex Wong / Getty Images

Democrats maintain massive ad spending edge in Georgia Senate runoff

The GOP cavalry never really showed up for Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia’s Senate runoff — or if it did, it was with far fewer horses than we saw in November’s general election. 

Overall in this runoff, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and Democratic allies have outspent Walker and Republican outside groups over the airwaves by more than a 2-to-1 margin, $52.5 million to $25 million, according to ad-spending data from AdImpact from Nov. 9 to Dec. 5.  

And just looking at the campaigns, which get the biggest bang per advertising buck, it’s Warnock at $25.2 million, versus Walker at $10.1 million.

Read more here.

Voters line up outside of a polling site before it opens

Voters in suburban Atlanta line up at a polling location
Alex Sanz / AP

Warnock says runoff against Walker is about ‘right vs. wrong’

Democratic Sen. Warnock said the runoff election against Republican challenger Walker isn’t about “Republican versus Democrat” or "right versus left," but about “right versus wrong,” and criticized Walker for pushing false claims about his background in an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid in Atlanta.

Walker is “unprepared” and "unqualified,” Warnock said.

"I do think it’s disgraceful for someone who’s running for public office to be unwilling to tell us the truth about the basic facts of their life, telling us lies that are easily disputable,” Warnock said. “Like we all know that Herschel Walker is not a police officer.”

“He wears his lies as a bad of honor, literally,” he added, referring to Walker flashing a badge during a debate and falsely claiming he worked in law enforcement.

Warnock was elected to the Senate in a special election in 2020, and this year's race will determine who holds the seat for the next six years. Neither candidate met the 50% vote threshold required to win the ballot outright in the November general election.

Both candidates have barnstormed the state to mobilize voters, with Warnock and his Democratic allies having outspent Republicans since the Nov. 8 general election. The battleground state set new records for early voting again ahead of the runoff, with more than 1.85 million Georgians having voted early, according to the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Key red-to-blue county to watch in Georgia: Henry County

Henry County has personified Georgia’s red-to-blue transformation and is once again key to Democrats’ hopes of victory Tuesday in the Senate runoff.

The county is just south of Atlanta — demographic changes, suburban shifts and new transplants attracted to the growing economy have made it bluer.

In presidential elections, Henry County has seen a remarkable 56-point shift from Republicans to Democrats over the last two decades:

  • 2000: Bush wins by 36
  • 2004: Bush wins by 34
  • 2008: McCain wins by 8
  • 2012: Romney wins by 3
  • 2016: Clinton wins by 4
  • 2020: Biden wins by 20

And in Senate races, Republican David Perdue lost Henry County by less than 1 point in his winning 2014 campaign. Then he lost it by 25 points in the post-2020 runoff, contributing to his defeat to Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga.

In 2020, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., won Henry County by a similar 25 points in his successful special election bid against GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

In the 2022 general election, Warnock grew his advantage in Henry County, winning it by just over 31 points. Statewide, he ended nearly 1 point ahead of Republican rival Herschel Walker, forcing the runoff Tuesday.

As Senate runoff nears, Herschel Walker’s ex-girlfriend details abuse

As the U.S. Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and football legend Herschel Walker reaches its final hours, an ex-girlfriend of Walker is sharing details of what she says is his abusive behavior toward her.

Cheryl Parsa, 61, told NBC News on Sunday that she was in a five-year relationship with Walker in the 2000s. During an argument in 2005, she said, Walker pressed her head against a wall, grabbed her throat, and cocked his fist to throw a punch that missed and struck that wall.

Read more here.

Georgia Senate runoff smashes early voting records — and attracts new voters

ATLANTA — Georgia has set new records for early voting again as the two Senate candidates blitz the state ahead of Tuesday’s runoff election. And the contest is drawing new voters, too.

More than 1.85 million Georgians have voted early, according to the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, breaking two single-day records in about a week.

Among those who have already turned out, 56% are women and 44% men. White voters made up 55% of early voters, 32% are Black, and Latinos and Asian Americans each accounted for less than 2% of the total.

Gabriel Sterling, a top aide to the secretary of state, said the early vote total is expected to top 1.9 million as absentee ballots arrive.

Read more here.

Georgia Senate runoff tests the staying power of abortion in American elections

The high-stakes Senate runoff in Georgia will be the first major test of abortion politics since the midterm elections, when a backlash to the Supreme Court’s decision galvanized proponents of abortion rights and boosted Democrats.

Abortion was a major issue on Election Day in Georgia, when Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock finished about 1 point ahead of Republican rival Herschel Walker, though narrowly missing the 50% he needed to win outright. The 26% of Georgians who ranked abortion as their top issue backed Warnock by a margin of 77% to 21%, NBC News exit polls showed.

Now, Democrats see an opening to weaponize it to finish the job against Walker in the runoff, when a victory would give their party a 51st Senate seat.

Read more here.

Warnock gains early voting edge as both candidates barnstorm Georgia in final day before Senate runoff

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has built up an advantage in Georgia’s record-breaking early vote, putting Republican Herschel Walker in a position in which he’ll need to deliver big on Election Day to win in Tuesday’s Senate runoff.

Georgians have been bombarded with television ads, radio messages, direct mail and ceaseless fundraising appeals in the closely watched Senate race. Many of them are ready for it to be over.

“It’s been very, very exhausting,” said Ana Gomez, a sophomore at Georgia Tech who attended Warnock’s rally on campus Monday.

Over the long and grueling campaign, the two candidates have employed different strategies, with Warnock putting a premium on appeals to moderates and independents as Walker seeks to energize the Republican base in this former GOP stronghold.

Read more here.