ATLANTA - New York Magazine. Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock has won the state’s runoff election, according to the Associated Press, defeating Republican Herschel Walker in one of the fiercest campaigns of 2022 and giving Democrats a 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate.
“Thank you, Georgia. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and to God be the glory,” Warnock said in his victory speech just before midnight on Tuesday. “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.”
Warnock is the state’s first Black senator and senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Originally elected last year in a special election to replace retired GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, he has now been chosen to serve a full six-year term in the Senate. The Georgia residents in attendance at Warnock’s victory party Tuesday said they could not be more thrilled about the results.
"We're fighting for a democracy,” Erica Ferguson of Marietta, Ga., who attended the event with her college-age son, told Yahoo News. “I have a son, and I want to leave this world a better place for him, and Rev. Warnock is the only answer."
Atlanta resident Athena Soule, who has volunteered with the Warnock campaign since January 2020, said she’s been “excited and happy” ever since the pastor announced he would run for office more than two years ago.
"I feel like Sen. Warnock is dedicated to the well-being of Americans, and I trust that he's going to be working hard for us,” Soule said.
The win follows a long and intense battle that went four weeks into overtime after neither candidate won 50% of the vote in last month’s midterm election. In the end, more than 3.5 million people voted in the runoff, or roughly 1 in 2 registered voters. By comparison, in November a record 3.9 million ballots were cast.
In his concession speech late Tuesday, Walker said running for Senate was the “best thing” he’d done in his entire life.
“We’ve had a tough race,” he said. “You never stop dreaming and believing in America. … This is much bigger than Herschel Walker.”
Most polls had the two candidates in a dead heat for the majority of the race, despite a flurry of reports alleging that Walker, a staunch anti-abortion advocate, paid for a former girlfriend to undergo the procedure in 2009. Then another woman claimed he made her get an abortion during a years-long affair in the early 1990s. In both instances, he denied he had ever paid for a woman to get an abortion.
Walker’s campaign had tried to turn the election into a referendum on President Biden. But Walker has been hamstrung by a series of scandals and bizarre gaffes, including a recent digression on vampires and werewolves, as well as his close ties to former President Donald Trump.
The race was, from the onset, one of the most high-profile in the country. Warnock often painted Walker as unfit and unqualified to represent the state, taking jabs at his opponent’s intelligence, rigid anti-abortion stance and long list of abuse allegations.
“This race is about competence, who is ready and who is fit,” Warnock said at a rally in Atlanta last week featuring former President Barack Obama. “This is about right and wrong.”
Walker, meanwhile, claimed Warnock was running a “nasty, dishonest campaign.”
Born in 1969, Warnock grew up in the Kayton Homes public housing complex in Savannah, Ga. He went on to attend Morehouse College, an HBCU located in Atlanta, before earning his PhD from Union Theological Seminary.
In 2005 he was appointed to the role of senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once served as an associate minister. He continues to preach there to this day.
“The influences [Warnock] got at Morehouse are the same influences that came to bear on Martin Luther King,” Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor and U.S. congressman.