For the second time in less than two years, Georgia will go to the second round to elect its next senator. Under Georgia’s election laws, a candidate must have above a 50% threshold for a race to be triggered overnight.
In 2019, Johnny Isakson, one of two incumbent senators from Georgia, retired from public service to focus on his health while battling Parkinson’s disease. However, his Senate seat was not eligible for re-election, and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had to appoint a new senator: Kelly Loeffler. During the 2020 election period, fellow Georgia Senator David Perdue was a candidate for re-election. Isakson was last re-elected in 2016. Since 2020 was an election year, there had to be a formal process to fill the seat for the next two years since Loeffler was nominated earlier that year. Accordingly, Georgia held a special election.
Both Georgia Senate races ended in a runoff on Jan. 5, 2021. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff defeated Perdue and Loeffler.
Due to the 2021 runoff schedule, Governor Brian Kemp signed new legislation that shortened the runoff time from nine weeks to 28 days. So, instead of holding a runoff in early January 2023 with a few weeks of early voting, there will be just one week left (November 28 to December 2), with Election Day on December 6.
On Nov. 18, 2022, a judge ruled that Georgia must allow its counties to offer Saturday, Nov. 26 as an early voting date for runoffs. The judge granted a motion for declaratory judgment and injunction and issued an injunction.
“Georgia’s election code that prohibits this early voting date does not prohibit counties from voting early for a second round,” he said.
Who are the candidates in the race?
Senator Raphael Warnock is one of two Georgia senators hoping to retain his seat. He is originally from Savannah and an alumnus of Morehouse College. Warnock has served as senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta since 2005.
Warnock’s opponent, Herschel Walker, is a former University of Georgia football running back who also won the Heisman Trophy (college football’s most elite award). After playing college football, he was drafted into the National Football League and played for 12 seasons. He is from Johnston County, Georgia, and is a Trump-backed candidate.
Successes, scandals and surprises
The race was tight and competitive from the start. Candidates repeatedly attacked each other in personal and negative campaign ads. Walker has a long and controversial personal history and has attempted to exploit Warnock as a “rubber stamp” for President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Warnock called Walker “unqualified for the job”. A break came in October when news broke that Walker had paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion in 2009.
In a series of tweets breaking his silence, Walker’s son Christian Walker slammed his father. Young Walker called him a “bad father”, a “liar” and a “hypocrite”.
Young Walker, a known “warrior” to young right-wingers, has several controversies himself. He showed angry reasoning in videos (some now deleted) posted to Twitter directed at his father, showing a complicated and difficult relationship between the two.
“I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes responsibility. But HOW DARE YOU LIE and act like you’re a “moral, Christian, righteous man.” You have lived a life of DESTROYING the lives of others. How dare you,” he wrote in one of his Tweets.
Herschel Walker responded to one of his son’s tweets by saying, “I LOVE my son no matter what.”
However, since Christian Walker broke his silence, another woman has accused the elder Walker of paying for her abortion.
During the only face-to-face debate with Senator Warnock, Walker held up a police badge and said he was a police officer. After much speculation about whether the badge was fake, Walker confirmed it was an honorary badge in an interview with NBC News.
A recent statement from the Warnock campaign said “the success of the Warnock campaign has been driven by strong advocacy efforts, grassroots organizing and a digital program to connect with voters where they are.”
No matter who wins or loses, this race is historic. In his first election, Warnock became the first African-American man in the Senate to represent Georgia and the first black Democrat to be elected to the Senate from a former Confederate state. Georgia is about to make history.