Senator Raphael Warnock remains undefeated.
After being pushed to another runoff election in November, the Democrat asked Georgia voters to put him over the top “one more time” in December — and again they did.
As of November 2020, Warnock has been the leading voter in four consecutive Georgia Senate elections. But because of state law requiring statewide candidates to receive a majority to win a general election, Warnock had to double the feat in both his 2020 special election and his 2022 bid for a full six-year term.
His victory in this head-to-head contest with Republican nominee Herschel Walker means the Democrats will increase their already secured Senate majority, with 51 seats to the GOP’s 49, and solidify Peach State as a potentially decisive presidential battleground in 2024.
As the 2022 midterm cycle draws to a close, here are five takeaways from this final election night in Georgia.
Democrats had already seized control of the Senate, with 50 seats secured last month, allowing Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the casting vote as she does now. But winning a 51st seat, thanks to Warnock’s victory on Tuesday, carries important benefits for the Democrats leading the Senate and for President Joe Biden’s administration.
The party now enters 2023 with a true Senate majority — one that doesn’t need the power-sharing deal that has been in place for the past two years in an evenly divided chamber. That outright majority means Democrats will have the majority on committees, making it easier for them to push Biden’s nominees forward.
For example, the Senate Judiciary Committee, with its 22 members, will shift from a split of 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans to 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans. That removes a GOP procedural mechanism to delay confirmation of Biden’s judicial nominees.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are less likely to have a single senator hold their priorities hostage, as the party can now afford to lose a vote. Harris, who has already cast the third most casting votes of any vice president, and the most since John Calhoun nearly 200 years ago, would be less tied to Capitol Hill.
It’s also an early boost for Democrats ahead of the 2024 election, in which the party will have to defend several seats in deep red states, including West Virginia and Montana, to maintain its majority.
As long as former President Donald Trump remains an influential figure in Republican politics, Georgia is poised to become a crucial battlefield on Election Day, especially when federal offices are on the ballot.
If there was any doubt before Tuesday, it has now been cleared.
Walker was Trump’s hand-picked candidate to run against Warnock and he flared up despite running first on a ticket with a popular Republican governor and then, this time, with the express approval and support of that same governor during the campaign trajectory.
Kemp’s inability to pull Walker across the finish line says less about him — or even Walker, a flawed candidate in any setting — than it does about the state’s shifting partisan stance. Shifting demographics, an evolving economy, and strategic, hard-hitting organizing by Democrats have turned a beacon of the Old South into a legitimate swing state.
Now on to 2024.
After the 2020 election, Republicans in Georgia passed a controversial law that, among other things, reduced the amount of time between a November election and a possible runoff, creating a shortened timeline that reduced the time frame for voters by mail and shortened the number of days asked for vote in person.
It didn’t matter.
The Democratic turnout machine in Georgia over the past four weeks — with a flying start dating back years and heavily due to the groundwork of Stacey Abrams and her allies — spawned another hotly contested race that generated tens of millions of dollars in spending by the campaigns and national organizations.
While the final number of votes cast remains to be seen, early in-person turnout ahead of this year’s runoff was lower than in 2021. That’s because the new law shortened the period between votes from nine weeks to four. But it was still going strong, with the record of one day early voting in the state repeatedly broken during the final week of pre-election voting.
Turnout has been especially strong in key Democratic strongholds, including larger metropolitan areas and the suburbs shaded blue following the election of former President Donald Trump in 2016. Six years later, Georgia is not only a symbol of Trump’s apparent influence over the GOP, but also a model for democrats who want to take advantage of it.
Trump sought to use the 2022 midterm elections to fill congressional majorities and state houses with allies who owed their offices to Trump’s endorsement ahead of his third White House nomination. Instead, he supported a series of flawed, controversial candidates who lost races the GOP expected to win. Walker joined a list on Tuesday night that included Blake Masters in Arizona and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, as well as gubernatorial losers such as Kari Lake in Arizona, Tim Michels in Wisconsin, Tudor Dixon in Michigan and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.
Ex-Trump White House official says Trump is liable for Walker’s loss
No Republican presidential candidate had lost Georgia since 1992. But with Trump up for re-election, the Democrats won the presidency in 2020 and both of the state’s Senate seats in the 2021 runoff. They then won another Senate seat this year by defeating a candidate pushed into the race by the former president .
The losses have immediate consequences: Trump has already launched his 2024 presidential bid. Any loss by a Republican pushed by Trump is likely to infuriate donors, embolden potential rivals, and undermine GOP voters’ confidence in Trump’s political power.
The blame game that began four weeks ago will continue after Walker’s loss, likely reinforcing calls for the GOP to go elsewhere for leadership.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp kept his distance from Walker as he ran for re-election in this year’s rematch with Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. He won 2.1 million votes, about 200,000 more than Walker won against Warnock in November.
After his victory, however, Kemp embraced his party’s Senate candidate more fully, despite the governor’s bad blood with Trump.
Kemp’s goal was to convince some of those tens of thousands of card dealers to support the GOP nominee in the second round. He appeared at rallies with Walker, cut television commercials for the former University of Georgia football star, and even lent the get-out-the-vote operation that propelled him to victory to a Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, aligned super PAC to Boost Walker. .
It was in stark contrast to Trump’s approach, who held a tele-rally for Walker on the eve of the election but otherwise did little to assist in the runoff. And if Walker had won, it would have been Kemp who deserved much of the credit.
However, Georgia’s runoff proved a lesson for former President Barack Obama and later Trump to learn: Voter support is often non-transferable. And without Kemp on the ballot, many of the same suburban moderates who rejected Walker in November did so again in the second round.