Forsyth County residents made their voices heard in the Dec. 6 U.S. Senate runoff election between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
Statewide, more than 3.5 million Georgians voted in the race, with Warnock receiving about 1.8 million, about 51.4% of the votes cast, to Walker’s over 1.7 million votes, about 48.7% of votes. The race gives Democrats a 51-49 edge in the U.S. Senate.
In Forsyth County, 88,630 ballots were cast, and Walker won more than 58,240 votes, about 65.7% of the total, to Warnock’s 30,390 votes, about 34.3%.
During voting for the runoff: about 49,500 voters cast in-person ballots during advance voting between Monday, Nov. 28 and Friday, Dec. 2; 34,427 voted in-person on election day; and 4,778 mail-in absentee ballots were returned out of more than 5,700 issued.
Both statewide and locally, total votes were lower in the runoff election, which had only the Senate race on the ballot, than the Nov. 8 general election.
In November, more than 3.9 million Georgians cast ballots, with Warnock earning about 1.95 million votes, about 49.4% of the total, to Walker’s nearly 1.91 votes, about 48.5%, and Libertarian Chase Oliver’s 81,365, about 2.1%.
In Forsyth County, about 102,000 voters cast ballots in the race, with Walker receiving about 66,000, about 64.8 % of the total, to Warnock’s nearly 33,000, about 32.3%, and Oliver’s almost 3,000 votes, about 2.9% of the total.
The lengthy campaign that finally concluded Tuesday night was the most expensive race of the 2022 cycle, with outside groups and the candidates’ campaigns spending more than $401 million in the race, according to campaign-finance tracking group OpenSecrets.
“It is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: The people have spoken,” Warnock said to a jubilant crowd celebrating the victory at a downtown Atlanta hotel.
“The people once again rose up in a multi-racial, multi-religious coalition of conscience,” Warnock said.
“I will walk with you even as I work for you,” Warnock vowed, promising to represent all Georgians, not just those who voted for him. “I will always be a voice for Georgia. All of Georgia.”
Walker conceded the race on Tuesday night.
“I’m not gonna make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight,” Walker told his supporters. “I want you to believe in America and continue to believe in the Constitution and believe in our elected officials.”
“The best thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life is run for this Senate seat right here and the reason I’m gonna say that is I had a chance to meet all you and hear what you guys feel about this country,” Walker added.
Going overtime to achieve victory wasn’t new to Warnock. The pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta first won a U.S. Senate seat in a January 2021 runoff.
During this year’s lengthy campaign, Warnock portrayed himself as a protector of middle-class Georgians’ economic interests, touting his support for a $35-per-month cap on insulin and other drug spending caps for Medicare beneficiaries passed earlier this year. Warnock is also a strong supporter of full Medicaid expansion in Georgia as a way to bolster the state’s hospital infrastructure and improve rural health care.
Walker, one of the most storied University of Georgia football players of all time, was a political neophyte when he was tapped by former President Donald Trump to run for the seat last year.
Walker sought to tie Warnock to President Joe Biden and blamed the Democratic duo for high inflation and crime rates. The Republican also emphasized what he considers the problems with “woke” social policies, often telling crowds he would protect women’s sports from the participation of transgender athletes and criticizing Democrats for focusing on racism in American history.
Abortion was one of the most important issues in the race as Georgia’s law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy took effect this fall. Warnock made his strong pro-choice position clear during the campaign, saying that “a patient’s room is too narrow and small and cramped a space for a woman, her doctor and the United States government,” and that abortion rights are protected by the fundamental right to privacy.
At one point, Walker indicated that he opposes all abortions, with no exceptions for the life of the mother or in the case of rape or incest. But during a debate this fall, he said he supports Georgia’s “heartbeat law,” which bans most abortions after about six weeks but includes exceptions for rape and incest.
The Walker campaign was dogged by a number of serious allegations about his character. Two ex-girlfriends alleged that Walker paid for their abortions, despite his public pro-life stance.
Warnock campaign ads highlighted Walker’s alleged violence against his ex-wife. More recently, reports surfaced that Walker received a Texas homestead tax exemption despite having voted and run for office in Georgia.
Georgians turned out in droves to cast their ballots during the early voting period ahead of Tuesday’s runoff, with more than 1.7 million voting early during the newly shortened period. Total turnout as of Tuesday night was 3.5 million, a record for a midterm runoff in Georgia.
Rebecca Grapevine of Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.