Democratic US Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia beat back a challenge from Republican former NFL star Herschel Walker to win Tuesday’s runoff election for Senate.
Warnock, 53, defeated his Republican rival, 60, to score a full six-year term after winning a special election in January 2021 — with Tuesday’s victory expanding the Dems’ control of the Senate to 51-49.
With the race called Tuesday night by The Associated Press, Warnock held a slim 51.2% to 48.8% lead with 98% of the vote counted.
Warnock came out to cheers of “six more years!” as he thanked voters for their support.
“After a hard fought campaign or should I say campaigns, it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: the people have spoken,” Warnock said in his Tuesday night victory speech.
Warnock vowed to work across the aisle to get results for Georgians.
“I want all of Georgia to know whether you voted for me or not that every single day I am going to keep working for you,” Warnock said. “I’m proud of the bipartisan work I’ve done and intend to do more because I actually believe that at the end of the day we are all Americans.”
Walker accepted the election loss in his own speech to supporters Tuesday night.
“There’s no excuses in life, and I’m not gonna make any excuses now, because we put up one heck of a fight,” Walker said.
Despite the numerous athletic achievements, he called running for Senate the “best thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life.”
“We can’t blame no one because I want you to continue to believe in this country, believe in our elected officials and most of all stay together,” Walker said.
Warnock had won a partial Senate term in January 2021 when he defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffer, who had been appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of ailing then-Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson at the end of 2019.
The runoff for the full term was forced after neither Warnock nor Walker received more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 8 midterm election.
The intense run-off brought out some of the biggest political guns on both sides, with former President Trump and Republican senators such as Lindsey Graham lining up behind Walker, while ex-President Obama and President Biden rallied for Warnock.
Walker and Warnock remained close in the polls, but the ex-grid great began to fall behind after Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated GOP candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz in November, flipping a Republican-held seat in that state and preserving the Senate’s razor-thin Democratic majority.
Democrats currently control the 50-50 Senate by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie breaking vote.
Warnock got a boost in the closing days of his campaign from Obama, and former first lady Michelle Obama appeared in a number of ads for the Democrat.
Warnock also appeared to benefit from a surge in early voting, especially in Democratic strongholds, that shattered single-day records leading up to Tuesday.
At the same time, Walker often struggled to overcome allegations by a pair of women who accused him of paying them to have abortions despite his pro-life stance and questions about his fitness to serve in the Senate.
Walker denied the claims.