Decision day: Georgia’s whirlwind U.S. Senate runoff comes to a dramatic close

By: - December 6, 2022 1:58 pm

The electoral battle between Herschel Walker, left, and Sen. Raphael Warnock will soon come to a close. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

When the sun rises Wednesday morning, Georgians will hopefully know who will represent them in the U.S. Senate for the next six years.

Democrats are hoping to elect incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and end their year on a happy note. Though the party outperformed expectations nationwide, just narrowly losing control of the U.S. House, the Georgia GOP dominated statewide races, with the exception of the Senate race.

Warnock received nearly 38,000 more votes than Republican Herschel Walker in the Nov. 8 general election, but neither of them surpassed 50% of the vote, sending the race to a high-stakes runoff that was boiled down to just four weeks.

Republicans have been dreaming of a Walker win, which will keep the Senate at the 50-50 status quo. That means Vice President Kamala Harris would keep her tie-breaking vote, but Democrats would be denied an advantage on committee assignments, further reining in their ability to pass legislation.

Unlike in 2020, when Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff helped deliver the Senate to Democratic hands in one fell swoop, the Senate will remain in Democratic control no matter who wins, but the stakes remain high, said Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie.

“When the Senate is divided 50-50, it does give the minority power, more leverage, and there’s usually a power sharing arrangement about how things are going to go. And with an outright majority, the Democrats won’t have to divide committee memberships, so it does actually matter.”

A 51st member will also make it easier for Democrats in confirming judicial and administrative appointments, said Daniel Paul Franklin, associate professor emeritus of political science at Georgia State University, and potentially even aid them in passing legislation despite the cloture rule requiring 60 votes to end debate in most cases.

“It’s possible, given how close Republican control of the House is, the Democrats may be able to get some legislation passed by peeling off a few Republican votes. I mean it’s possible. So in that case, control of the committees is going to be very important because you have to be able to advance bills out of committee,” he said.

This story first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, a member of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, which includes the Phoenix. 

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal. Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. The Florida Phoenix is a sister media outlet to the Georgia Recorder. Both outlets are part of the nonprofit States Newsroom.