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Warnock defeats Walker in Georgia US Senate runoff

In the contentious runoff race to secure the nation's last U.S. Senate seat in a politically polarized state, Democratic candidate and current U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock has a slight advantage over his Republican opponent.

ATLANTA (CN) — With 95% of the total votes counted Tuesday night for Georgia's contentious U.S. Senate runoff, Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Herschel Walker by just one percent.

Of the roughly 3.3 million votes counted so far, Warnock currently has about 50% of the vote, while Walker has 49%, according to the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

November's midterm resulted in 48.5% of votes for Walker, just slightly trailing behind Warnock's 49.4%, with 2.1% of votes cast to Libertarian Chase Oliver.

Georgia is one of only two states, along with Louisiana, that requires a runoff election when neither candidate receives more than 50% of the votes.

It's déjà vu for Warnock as he prevails in his reelection bid for a full six-year term, just as he and Jon Ossoff did in the 2020 Senate runoff when they clinched control of the chamber for Democrats.

While Democrats have already secured their control of the U.S. Senate, a Warnock victory expands the party's fragile majority to 51– 49, giving them a stronger grasp of the chamber. As Republican candidates succeeded statewide in every other race during Georgia's midterms, Warnock's win brings a surge of confidence to Democratic voters in the increasingly politically polarized state.

"I'm ready to build a stronger Georgia," said Warnock during his victory speech in Atlanta.

Walker also gave a speech to thank his supporters, where he said that running for senate was "the best thing I've ever done in my whole life."

Over 1.3 million votes were cast Tuesday, according to state election officials, despite the cold, rainy weather. Most voters voted quickly without encountering lines, with an average wait of two minutes. More than 1.85 million Georgians voted early, breaking two single-day records in about a week.

Among those who voted in the runoff, 56% were women, and 44% were men. White voters constituted 55% of total voters, 32% were Black, and Latinos and Asian Americans each accounted for less than 2% of the total. Notably, more than 80,000 runoff voters did not vote in the 2022 general election, according to GeorgiaVotes.com, a site that uses public data to analyze voting trends.

After Republicans failed to overturn control of the Senate in the midterms, many began to back Walker in the runoff to try and restrain Democrats' fragile majority.

But in the general election, roughly 200,000 voters reelected Republican Governor Brian Kemp and chose not to back Walker.

Despite an endorsement from Trump, Walker's campaign lacked initial support as it faced revelations of falsehoods and troubles within his personal life and relationships.

“Don’t beat women, hold guns to people’s heads, fund abortions then pretend your pro-life, stalk cheerleaders, leave your multiple minor children alone to chase more fame, lie, lie, lie, say stupid crap, and make a fool of your family.. And then maybe you can win a senate seat,” tweeted Walker’s son Christian Tuesday night. The 23-year-old social media influencer, who has gained a large online following for his “anti-woke” rants, has called out his father online before, accusing Walker of lying and violently threatening him and his mother.

Born in Wrightsville, Georgia, the 60-year-old candidate gained conservative support due to his ownership of two businesses in the food and service industry and his football stardom at the University of Georgia, whose team possesses an intensely devout fan base.

After releasing a book called "Breaking Free" in 2008, which detailed his dissociative identity disorder diagnosis, Walker started visiting military bases to speak about mental health, gaining support from the veteran community.

News reports were quick to dispel false statements made by Walker during speeches about being a former police officer for Cobb County and an FBI agent.

The most alarming of Walker's controversies came just weeks before the midterm election, when two women, one of which claimed to be the mother of one of his children, said he paid for them to have abortions, despite his staunch opposition to the procedure.

But Walker's most loyal supporters have not been persuaded by his allegations of such behavior and are more concerned with the rising costs of inflation and escalating crime, which they say are due to the policies of Warnock and President Joe Biden.

On the eve of the runoff, Walker made several stops around crucial GOP voting grounds in North Georgia to boost Tuesday's turnout, ending the day at an indoor shooting range and gun club in Kennesaw with Ralph Reed, a prominent evangelical leader.

"I think he's the most qualified person for the job, personally. He has shown leadership ability, of course in football, but also in business. And he certainly has a heart for the Lord, so, yeah, he's got my full support," said Pat McBride, an attendee at Monday night's rally.

On the other hand, the support of Black voters drives Warnock's campaign and helped secure his first victory after Democratic activist Stacey Abrams registered more than 800,000 voters leading up to the 2020 election, many of whom were Black.

The 53-year-old candidate grew up in public housing in Savannah as the 11th of 12 siblings. He became the first in his family to graduate college and followed the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. by attending Morehouse College, a historically Black college, and going on to be the pastor of the same Ebenezer Baptist church.

"I'm voting for Warnock mainly because of his opponent, Walker, who is a complete idiot. His comments about China's bad air coming over to America's good air and about how we need more big gas-guzzling cars ... he's just the worst choice ever and I don't think he is in line with Georgia values," said Atlanta voter Stephen Kovash.

Warnock spent the last day of his campaign trail with labor union organizers around Atlanta, a city encompassed by Democratic voters, and continued his pursuit of gaining support from younger voters and students with rallies held at various state universities, including Georgia Tech, the local rival of the University of Georgia.

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