Democrats padded their Senate majority on Tuesday night thanks in part to a rebuke of the Republican candidate in Georgia’s suburbs.
Turnout was somewhat lower in Tuesday’s runoff than in the November general election, by about 400,000 voters, but Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) more than doubled his lead over Republican Herschel Walker. The Democrat led by about 95,000 votes as of Wednesday, besting his 37,000-vote margin in the general election.
Both candidates fought to get voters back to the polls just a month after the Nov. 8 general election. Runoff elections, triggered when no candidate receives more than 50 percent, regularly have lower turnout. About 3.5 million voters showed up for the runoff versus 3.9 million in November’s general election.
Walker was seemingly unable to turn out the voters he needed to offset Warnock’s advantages in urban and suburban areas. While Warnock won suburban areas by 190,000 votes in November, he led them by 223,000 in the December runoff.
Walker, plagued by several scandals during his campaign, had already shown weakness in these areas: The ex-football star had already underperformed Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican, significantly in the vote-rich Atlanta suburbs in November.
That turnout drop, especially in Atlanta’s exurban counties in North Georgia, hurt Walker. Forsyth County provided 66,000 votes in Walker’s November outing but only 58,000 in December. In adjacent Cherokee County, Walker dropped from 81,000 to 72,000. Although Walker still won both counties, both shifted closer toward Warnock this time.
That same trend held true in the rural areas that Walker dominated: In the runoff, he won rural areas by 319,000 votes, compared to his 358,000 lead there in November.
In a continued trend from November, counties south of Atlanta delivered clear shifts toward Warnock. Diversifying Henry County, for instance, has moved toward Democrats faster than any other in Georgia, flipping from a Republican stronghold to a Democratic one in only a few years, The Post’s Theodoric Meyer reported on Monday. A 10 percent drop in overall turnout resulted in 3,400 fewer votes for Warnock, but 4,400 fewer for Walker.
Unlike previous runoffs, more educated and higher income areas were less enthusiastic about voting in the runoff, according to a Post analysis of precinct-level results. In the quarter of precincts with the smallest share of college educated registered voters, turnout fell by 9.2 percent compared to November. In precincts with the highest share of college educated voters, turnout fell by 10.5 percent.
Similarly, areas with the lowest median household incomes saw an 8.4 percent drop-off in voters, while those with the highest median household income fell by 10.9 percent.
Turnout figures will increase as additional ballots are counted on Wednesday.
Turnout dropped 10 percent this runoff, similar to Georgia’s 2021 runoff election for Senate when it fell 9 percent from about 4.9 million to roughly 4.5 million, according to Edison Research. Still, the recent elections represent high enthusiasm in a runoff: In the state’s 2008 and 1992 Senate elections, turnout dropped by 43 percent between the general election and the runoff.
Lenny Bronner, Dara Gold and Scott Clement contributed to this report.
Sources: Georgia Secretary of State, voter data from L2, Associated Press election results.