WASHINGTON — Control of the U.S. Senate once again might hinge on Georgia, as voters in the Peach State will head back to the polls next month in a runoff election.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and former professional football player and GOP nominee Herschel Walker are in a dead heat in Georgia, sending that race to a runoff scheduled for Dec. 6 because neither secured more than 50% of the vote, as required under Georgia law.
The Georgia race could be key because two other closely watched U.S. Senate contests also remained up in the air by midday Wednesday. They are in Nevada, between Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican; and in Arizona, between Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly and GOP candidate Blake Masters.
During a Wednesday press conference, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the U.S. Senate race is the only Georgia race that will go into a runoff election in December, and that his office is already preparing to set up that race.
Raffensperger said most of the races had a clear winner, and those candidates who did not win conceded peacefully.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said, adding that he spoke with his Democratic challenger, Bee Nguyen, who conceded Tuesday night.
Warnock wrote on Twitter that when votes are finished, he knows he will have garnered more votes than Walker, despite not exceeding the 50% threshold.
“And whether we need to work all night, through tomorrow, or for four more weeks, we will do what we need to and bring this home,” he wrote.
The Associated Press called the runoff election, with Warnock with 49.4% of the vote and Walker with 48.5%.
Walker underperformed Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who again defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams, this time by a greater margin than in 2018. Kemp secured more than 53% of Republican votes, signaling split-ticket voting in the Georgia Senate race.
Walker’s campaign has been roiled in multiple scandals, ranging from reporting that he was abusive to his ex-wife, to claims he paid for abortions for two women, despite saying he opposes abortion. Walker denies the allegations about paying for abortions, and States Newsroom has not independently verified those accounts.
The GOP has poured millions of dollars into the Georgia Senate race. The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has spent $42 million in Georgia, according to data released by Ad Impact.
This would be Warnock’s second runoff election. The first one in 2021 followed a tight victory against Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Kemp after Republican Sen. John Isakson retired due to health problems.
Warnock narrowly won, and served for the two-year remainder of Isakson’s six-year term.
With only one-third of U.S. Senate seats up for reelection this year, 36 Democrats and 29 Republicans didn’t face voters Tuesday. And many of the senators up for reelection were in safe states, leaving voters in just a handful of races to determine control of the chamber.
Democrats were able to pick up a Senate seat in Pennsylvania that Republicans have held for years. Democratic candidate John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, beat GOP candidate and celebrity T.V. Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“We bet on the people of Pennsylvania — and you didn’t let us down,” Fetterman wrote on Twitter.
Republicans held onto Florida, where U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio defeated a challenge from Democratic nominee Rep. Val Demings. The GOP kept control of an open seat in Ohio, with Republican candidate J.D. Vance beating Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan for the seat held by retiring Sen. Rob Portman.
In Iowa, 89-year-old Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was first elected to Congress in 1974 before becoming a senator in 1980, defeated Democratic candidate Michael Franken with 56% of the vote, securing an eighth term in the Senate.
And in a tight Wisconsin race, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson kept his seat, beating Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes with 50.5% of the vote.
Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd defeated state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, to keep North Carolina’s open seat safely red for another six years.