Update (2245ET): With 95% of votes counted, a number of mainstream media outlets have called the Georgia Senate Runoff election for incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock.
Well over 1 million people went to the polls Tuesday. That followed record-breaking early voting in the runoff, in which about 1.85 million in-person and mail-in votes had been tallied by Dec. 2, the last day of early voting.
Mr. Warnock’s victory means that Democrats will control the Senate 51-49 starting in January, slightly increasing their hold on the chamber they have controlled since early 2021, when Mr. Warnock was first elected, along with his Georgia Democratic colleague Sen. Jon Ossoff.
The win means Democrats will have control of Senate committees outright and will no longer have to adhere to a power-sharing agreement with the GOP.
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Georgia voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to settle the final Senate contest in the country between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and football legend Herschel Walker, following a four-week runoff that has attracted a flood of outside spending.
The outcome of Tuesday's vote will determine whether Democrats will have a 51-49 Senate majority, or will maintain the 50-50 control of the chamber which often resulted in the party kowtowing to centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ).
Atlanta voters were greeted Tuesday morning with 40-degree weather with rain.
The contest between Walker and Warnock pits the state's first black senator and senior minister against Walker, who has the support of former President Donald Trump. If Warnock wins, it would solidify Georgia's status as a battleground state heading into the 2024 election, AP reports. If Walker wins, it would reflect limited Democratic gains in the state - particularly in light of Republicans marking wide-ranging victories across the state in last month's midterm elections.
In that election, Warnock led Walker by about 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast but fell shy of a majority, triggering the second round of voting. About 1.9 million votes already have been cast by mail and during early voting, an advantage for Democrats whose voters more commonly cast ballots this way. Republicans typically fare better on voting done on Election Day, with the margins determining the winner.
Last month, Walker, 60, ran more than 200,000 votes behind Republican Gov. Brian Kemp after a campaign dogged by intense scrutiny of his past, meandering campaign speeches and a bevy of damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions — accusations that Walker has denied. -AP
On Monday Walker campaigned with his wife, Julie, where he thanked supporters and backed off the attacks on Warnock.
"I love y’all, and we’re gonna win this election," he told supporters at a winery in Ellijay, adding "I love winning championships."
As far as campaign spending, Warnock's has spent around $170 million vs. Walker's $60 million or so, according to federal disclosures. Their respective party committees have spent more, according to the report.
During the campaign Warnock attacked Walker's rocky past - claiming the ex-NFL star paid for two former girlfriends abortions, while Walker was forced to admit during the campaign that he fathered three children out of wedlock whom he had never publicly acknowledged.
Walker, a multi-millionaire and successful businessman, has campaigned on his business achievements and philanthropic activities - though he was caught exaggerating, saying he employed hundreds of people and grossed tens of millions of dollars in sales, when in fact he employed eight people and had around $1.5 million in average annual sales.