Georgia election runoff: Live updates on Senate race

ATLANTA (AP) — Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican football legend Herschel Walker are head-to-head in Tuesday night’s run-off election that will determine the final U.S. Senate seat in the 2022 midterm elections .

With votes still being counted, Warnock is showing a strong showing in and around Democratic stronghold Atlanta. Walker maintains an advantage in Republican-leaning rural areas, but in several of those counties Warnock has narrowed the gap slightly from the November general election, putting pressure on Walker to win in more Democrats. Metro areas look for gains as election officials continue to tabulate results.

Democrats already secured a Senate majority, so the race will determine whether the party has a 51-49 advantage or a 50-50 advantage with a tie vote for Vice President Kamala Harris.Warnock and Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won the runoff last year Democrats controlled the House of Representatives during the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency.

Both races are within 2 points, and a top Georgia election official late Tuesday predicted the race would again end narrowly. “This looks like a long night. But that’s why we’re counting voters,” Gabriel Sterling, a senior aide in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, tweeted.

Warnock led Walker by around 37,000 votes in last month’s general election Nearly 4 million, but failed to secure a majority, triggering a second ballot. Some 1.9 million runoff ballots have already been cast by mail and early voting, an advantage for Democrats because their constituents vote that way more often. Republicans generally do better on Election Day itself.

The state is on track for a strong Election Day, with state officials estimating a turnout total of about 1.4 million — slightly higher than the November midterms and the 2020 election. But early voting and mail-in voting have not reached the levels of past years, and the total number of votes cast is likely to be less than the 2021 Senate runoff.

Voting rights groups point to changes made by state lawmakers after the 2020 election that shortened the run-off period from nine weeks to four as the main reason for the decline in early and mail-in ballots.

The extended campaign turned into a bitter struggle between two black men in a major Southern state: Warnock, the state’s first black senator, and the senior pastor of Atlanta Cathedral, where Martin Luther King Jr. was there. Sermon, Walker is a political novice backed by former University of Georgia football star and former President Donald Trump.

A victory for Warnock would cement Georgia’s status as a battleground heading into the 2024 presidential election. However, Walker’s victory could indicate weakness in the Democratic Party, especially given that Georgia Republicans swept all other statewide races last month.

Walker awaited the results at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday night, while Warnock was at a hotel less than a mile away.

A 51-49 Senate lead for Democrats would mean the party would no longer have to negotiate a power-sharing deal with Republicans or rely on Harris to break as many tie votes as possible.

Last month, Walker, 60, supported the Republican governor by more than 200,000 votes. Brian Kemp’s post-election campaign has been rocky and dogged by damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for the abortions of two ex-girlfriends — allegations he denies.

The vote went ahead despite cold and rainy weather in parts early Tuesday. Stephanie Jackson Ali, policy director for the Progressive New Georgia Project Action Fund, said the group found few problems in the state, with line advance and equipment issues being resolved in a timely manner.

On Tuesday’s vote in Atlanta, Tom Callaway praised the GOP’s strength in Georgia and said he supported Kemp on the first round. But he voted for Warnock because he didn’t think “Herschel Walker was eligible to be a senator”.

“I don’t believe he’s made a statement about something he really believes in and hasn’t run a meaningful campaign,” Callaway said.

Warnock, who won the 2021 special election, serves the remaining Republican senators. During Johnny Isakson’s tenure, he said he believed he had convinced enough voters, including independents and moderate Republicans, that he deserved a full term.

“They know the game is about quality and character,” Warnock said. Walker also predicted the victory, likening the game to Georgia, where he led, and the 1980 national championship: “I like winning championships.”

Total seat spending for the cycle was approaching $400 million through Tuesday, a staggering amount even for a populous state like Atlanta with an expensive major media market.

For months, the senator has been focused on his work in the Senate and his status as the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. However, from the final stage before November 11th. In August’s general election, he joined a crackdown on Walker, using the football star’s rocky past to argue that the political newcomer was “not fit” for a senior job.

Walker countered that Warnock was trying to paint Warnock as overly grateful to Biden. He even accused Warnock of “kneeling and begging” at the White House, a scathing allegation leveled at a black senator by a black challenger over his relationship with the white president.

Multimillionaire Walker exaggerates his philanthropy and business success, including claiming that his company employs hundreds of people and generates tens of millions of dollars in annual sales, although records show he has eight employees and averages about $1.5 million a year. He has stated that he has worked as a law enforcement officer and graduated from college, although he has done neither.

Walker was also forced to admit during the campaign that he fathered three children He’s never spoken publicly about the affair before — a conflict with years of criticism of absentee fathers and his specific calls for black men to take an active role in their children’s lives.

His ex-wife said Walker once held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. He never denied these details and wrote about his violent tendencies in his 2008 memoir, attributing the behavior to mental illness.

Warnock touted his achievements in the Senate, touting a provision he sponsored to cap the cost of insulin for Medicare patients. He has praised the deals he has struck with Republican senators on infrastructure and maternal health care, referring to those Republican colleagues more than he has mentioned Biden or other Washington Democrats.

After the election, Biden, who has been struggling with low approval ratings, promised to do what he could to help Warnock, even if it meant staying away from Georgia. Warnock instead ran against former President Barack Obama.

Fearing a possible backlash, Walker avoided running with Trump until the final day of the campaign, and the two held a conference call with supporters on Monday.

Walker’s candidacy is the GOP’s last chance to flip a Senate seat this year. Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz, Arizona’s Blake Masters, Nevada’s Adam Laxalt and New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc, all Trump loyalists, lost their closely contested Senate races, with Republicans Think of it as part of their bid to get a majority.


Associated Press Writers Christina A. Cassidy and Ron Harris contributed to this report.

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