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Georgia runoff vote to decide US Senate

The runoff election in Georgia is a test of Donald Trump’s clout with voters as he seeks the Republican nomination to challenge President Joe Biden in 2024.

December 7, 2022
By Nathan Layne
7 December 2022

Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican football legend Herschel Walker are facing off in a final election that will determine whether Democrats can expand their razor-thin majority in the US Senate and solidify Georgia as a battleground state in the next presidential election.

The race will also be a last test of Donald Trump’s clout with voters as he seeks the Republican nomination to challenge President Joe Biden in 2024. The former president had a mixed record in his most competitive endorsements for Congress in the November midterm elections, including Walker.

Walker’s campaign has been plagued by repeated policy gaffes and a variety of allegations, including claims by former girlfriends that he encouraged them to get abortions, although he has campaigned for the procedure to be outlawed. He has denied the accusations.

The runoff set early voting records in Georgia in a race that has become the most expensive of the 2022 US midterm election season, with more than $400 million spent so far. The contest went to a runoff after neither candidate secured 50 per cent of the vote in the November 8 first round.

A victory by Warnock would give Democrats a 51-seat majority in the 100-seat Senate, which would make it slightly easier to advance Biden’s nominees for judicial and administrative posts.

While most legislation would still require Republican support, Biden’s Democratic Party will be able to more easily pass bills that are high priorities.

The individual power of Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to block Democratic-led legislation, as they have done in the past, would be diluted if Warnock voted with the rest of his caucus. If Manchin and Sinema, who don’t always agree on policy, vote together they could still stall Democratic initiatives.

A Walker win would mean that the Senate is back to the 50-50 split of the past two years.

On a wider scale, a Warnock victory could solidify Georgia as more of a battleground for Democrats in presidential elections. It also would be another midterm defeat at the polls for a loyal protege of Trump, who spurred Walker to run.

The US Justice Department said it was sending monitors to polling places to ensure the state complies with federal voting rights laws. The department has expressed concerns about possible violations of federal voting rights in Georgia.

Analysts say the early votes likely tilted Democratic, which will only a strong Election Day turnout by Walker’s Republican supporters would offset.

“We should not rest on our laurels. The job is not done. The truth is my opponent could still win this election,” Warnock told a crowd in Norcross, Georgia, on Tuesday.

Warnock is the pastor of the historic Atlanta church where slain US civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Jr once preached. Both Warnock and Walker are Black.

Along with the abortion claims, former girlfriends have also accused Walker of domestic abuse. He has also faced accusations that he maintains his primary residence in Texas, not Georgia.

Walker has denied the charges, but they may have discouraged some Republican voters. Warnock edged him 49.44 to 48.49 per cent in November, even as Republican Governor Brian Kemp and other statewide Republican candidates easily won re-election.

Republicans won a narrow majority in the US House of Representatives in the November 8 election, but fell short of the “red wave” that some in the party had forecast.

This is the third Senate runoff in two years in the divided state and the second for Warnock, who first won the seat in a runoff in January 2021.

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