Joan E Greve
The result of the runoff will not determine control of the Senate, as Democrats have already won enough seats to maintain their hold for the next two years.
But a Raphael Warnock victory would give Democrats a crucial 51st seat, allowing them to abandon their current power-sharing agreement with Republicans in the evenly divided chamber. A 51-seat majority would also provide Democrats with some wriggle room when it comes to close committee votes and nomination fights.
“This race is about who is going to represent the 11 million people of Georgia for the next six years,” Warnock told MSNBC on Monday.
“Given my opponent, this race is not even about Republican versus Democrat, red versus blue, right versus left. It’s right versus wrong, and I think people see that.”
Polls are now closing in Georgia.
More than a million ballots were cast today, according to the secretary of state’s office, and some 2.9m votes have been cast since early voting began – suggesting historic runoff turnouts.
The last Georgia runoff that first put Warnock in the Senate saw the highest runoff turnout in the state’s history.
Winner of Georgia runoff will make history
From Guardian staff and agencies:
The winner of Tuesday’s midterm election runoff for one of Georgia’s two seats in the US Senate will make history.
Raphael Warnock became the first Black senator from Georgia when he won the 2020 election runoff that helped tip the upper chamber into Democratic control, boosting the party in its capture of the House, the Senate and the White House.
Now, as Georgia heads for the last day of voting in the latest runoff, Warnock hopes to add another distinction: winning a full six-year term in the Senate.
Standing in the way is another Black man, Republican challenger Herschel Walker. And whoever wins will be the first Black person elected from Georgia to a full Senate term.
Black voters there say the choice is stark: Warnock, the senior minister of Martin Luther King’s Atlanta church, echoes traditional liberal notions of the Black experience; and Walker, a University of Georgia football icon, speaks the language of white cultural conservatism and mocks Warnock’s interpretations of King, among other matters.
“Republicans seem to have thought they could put up Herschel Walker and confuse Black folks,” said Bryce Berry, president of Georgia’s Young Democrats chapter and a senior at Morehouse College, a historically Black campus from which both King and Warnock graduated.
Standing beneath a campus statue of King, Berry continued: “We are not confused.”
Other Black voters raised questions about Walker’s past – his false claims about his business and professional accomplishments, violence against his ex-wife, reports alleging that he paid for women to have abortions while now campaigning to ban the procedure – and the way he stumbles over some public policy discussions as a candidate.
Some said they believe GOP leaders are taking advantage of Walker’s fame as a football star.
“How can you let yourself be used that way as a Black person?” asked Angela Heard, a state employee from Jonesboro. “I think you should be better in touch with your people instead of being a crony for someone.”
Even some Black conservatives who back Walker lament his candidacy as a missed opportunity to expand Republicans’ reach to a key part of the electorate that remains overwhelmingly Democratic.
“I don’t think Herschel Walker has enough relatable life experience to the average Black American for them to identify with him,” said Avion Abreu, a 34-year-old realtor who lives in Marietta and has supported Walker since the GOP primary campaign.
Warnock narrowly led Walker in the November general election, but neither crossed the 50% threshold, sending the race to a runoff on 6 December.
Georgia voters decide: Warnock or Walker?
In about an hour, the polls will close in Georgia, and counties could start reporting totals soon after. Democrats have already secured a razor-thin majority in the US Senate, but tonight’s runoff race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Trump-endorsed Republican Hershel Walker is being closely watched across the US.
A win for Warnock means the Democrats will be better able to leverage their majority to balance against a Republican-led House of Representatives. It would also solidify Georgia’s status as a political battleground state.
Regardless of outcome, the race could prove to be a rebuke of Donald Trump. Walker’s poor performance in November was seen as a failure for Trump. If he wins this race, it could be chalked up to Trump’s absence from the campaign trail.
Follow along for live updates as the results roll in.