Warnock’s victory will give Democrats a 51-49 margin in the Senate, a one-seat gain that gives the party a clear majority.
Walker’s defeat was another loss for a Donald Trump-endorsed candidate, as the former president thrown his backing behind the sports celebrity despite his lack of experience in the political realm and personal baggage from past relationships.
News networks CNN and MSNBC spent hours analyzing the runoff results, with each candidate flipping back and forth in the lead several times. Fox News also covered the results, but as part of their regular primetime lineup.
“After a hard-fought campaign, you got me for six more years,” Warnock told a room of cheering supporters after Walker conceded the race. His speech reflected his experience as senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
In his speech, Walker said, “I am not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight.”
The race was among the highest profile contests this midterm cycle, in part because of the tabloid-like headlines that surrounding Walker’s personal life, including revelations of several children out of wedlock. He also drew puzzled reactions for some of his remarks on the campaign trail. A speech he gave last month in which he talked of vampires and werewolves was satirized on Saturday Night Live and was the subject of a Warnock attack ad. Much circulated was a clip of Walker from a campaign event in July, when he talked of climate change and China’s “bad air” moving to “our good air space.” His prospects didn’t improve in the time after the November election, when reports emerged that Walker got a tax break for listing a Texas home as his primary residence.
The Warnock-Walker face off also was the most expensive Senate race during the midterm cycle, according to analytics firm AdImpact. A total of $380 million was spent, including about $88 million for the runoff. Warnock has outspent Walker in the runoff, placing more than 70% of all spending. There was some falloff among Republican issue groups investing in the race since the November election.
Warnock drew heavy support from Hollywood which, given Georgia tax incentives, has become a production hub. Barbara Broccoli, Shonda Rhimes, Nicole Avant and Kerry Washington are among those who have contributed to his campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Warnock was the top recipient of showbiz money, raising $1.2 million from sources in the movie, TV and music business.
Some in the industry expressed their disbelief that Walker was even being taken seriously as a candidate. “GEORGIA: It’s not about Party – IT’S about being able to former a full sentence. VOTE WARNOCK.”
When Democrats retained control of the Senate in the days after the November election, there was some pundit speculation that it would mean less emphasis on the Georgia runoff, as control of the chamber was no longer at stake. Still, given the partisan split in the country, which has seen control of Congress shift back and forth several times in recent decades, every Senate race takes on added importance. Democrats also looked to the race to achieve a 51-seat majority, giving them a bit of wiggle room and perhaps slightly diminishing the influence of any one senator, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), often in the driver’s seat in the current 50-50 Senate.
But the next Congress likely will mean gridlock when it comes to major legislation, given Republicans’ narrow control of the House. Democrats’ Senate control still will be hugely important when it comes to confirming White House nominations and, should there be a vacancy, an opening on the Supreme Court.
Warnock defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in the 2021 runoff, but it was for a special election to serve the remaining term of Republican Johnny Isakson. Warnock then had to run again this year for a full, six-year term. All told, Warnock has run through five elections — the general election and runoff in 2020 and 2021, and the primary, general election and runoff this year — to win the full six year term.
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