By Sophia Alexandrou
Last month, following the midterm elections, the state of Georgia called a runoff for their Senate election between Democrat and incumbent, Raphael Warnock, and Republican, Herschel Walker. This is because the state of Georgia requires that the winner of the Senate race achieve a majority, and while Warnock was able to gain a plurality of the votes, the overall percentage of those who voted for him was just shy of 50%. With this runoff election, void of any third-party votes, Warnock was able to keep his Senate seat with 51.4% of the vote, about 3% more than Walker. With this win, the Democrats now have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, no longer requiring Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking votes, with the Republicans holding a 222-213 majority in the House of Representatives, proving this predicted “red wave” to be more of a “purple splash.” So, how was Warnock able to win?
Both candidates ran very different campaigns. Walker, the incumbent and someone with actual political experience, honed in on his experience as a pastor, while Walker, a former NFL player, had a campaign plagued with controversy. Throughout his campaign, Walker was hit with claims of domestic violence and paying for his former girlfriends’ abortions, despite holding a strong pro-life stance on the issue. In addition, Warnock attempted to connect with not just the Democrats, but also independent/third-party and Republican voters in Georgia. This is one of the factors that helped him secure the third-party and independent vote in the runoff. On the other hand, Warnock was very heavily endorsed by Trump and, as seen by the rest of the candidates that were endorsed by him this election cycle, the post-Trump administration influence has not resulted in many victories.
Warnock also worked to make voting more accessible for Georgians. The Republican aversion to mail-in voting, gaining immense strength during the 2020 election, may have cost them a seat in the Senate. According to Politico, Warnock was able to gain about 320,000 votes through mail-in ballots, winning over 58% support from these ballots. Black voters in Georgia, who were more likely to vote for Warnock, accounted for 31.8% of mail-in ballots.
Warnock was also able to gain high turnout in Atlanta, an area that votes heavily for Democrats, in the runoff. This allowed him to improve his margins to account for the slightly lower turnout of the election as a whole. Walker was unable to do this in generally Republican areas. In fact, Warnock improved his numbers in the only Republican area that showed higher turnout when compared to the November election, Walker’s home county of Johnson county.
The results of this runoff and the midterm election in general provided immense disappointment for the Republican party. This “red wave” they were expecting did not hold up and the influence that a Trump endorsement was expected to have severely underperformed. In addition, because the Democrats had performed much better than expected, President Biden has a better shot at reelection than anticipated. This runoff election, if anything, is a strong testament to the ever-increasing importance of voting and hope that democracy will succeed in providing power to those who will fight for the people.