Georgia's Senate election will likely head into a December runoff that could determine party control of the upper chamber after both Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock fell short of the 50 percent needed to win the race outright on Tuesday.
Georgia law requires the top two candidates to compete in a head-to-head rematch if neither reaches 50 percent of the vote on Election Day. The runoff will take place on Dec. 6.
The high stakes of the runoff will draw more scrutiny and money into the already hotly contested race. The two top candidates have spent over $100 million, according to OpenSecrets, in addition to hundreds of millions from outside groups.
The results indicate that Chase Oliver, a former Democrat running as a Libertarian Party candidate in the race, was able to pull enough votes away from Walker to prevent the Republican from reaching 50 percent in the race. Walker's campaign pollster warned about this scenario in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon last month.
Walker, a beloved college football and NFL star with Georgia roots, is a first-time politician who campaigned on a pro-business and tough-on-crime platform. He was raised in the small town of Wrightsville in central Georgia and went on to win the Heisman Trophy as a Georgia Bulldog in 1982. He later played for the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the New York Giants. Walker also has a golden retriever named Cheerio.
Warnock was elected to the Senate in a 2021 special election and has faced numerous controversies during his past two campaigns. Even after joining the Senate, Warnock has continued to work as CEO and senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, which pays him a $7,400-per-month, tax-exempt housing allowance.
Warnock came under fire last month after the Washington Free Beacon reported that since the start of the pandemic a low-income housing complex owned by his church attempted to evict over a dozen people, including one who owed just $28.55 in late rent.
The city of Atlanta has slapped the housing complex with multiple housing code violations over insect infestations, mold, overflowing garbage, and other sanitation issues, according to city records obtained by the Free Beacon. The complex also hired a previously convicted murderer as a maintenance man. This person went on to kill a tenant in 2020. The building has had other crime and safety issues, the Free Beacon reported.
Before Warnock was hired by Ebenezer Baptist Church, he ran a church camp in Maryland that was investigated for child abuse and plagued with health-code violations, according to records obtained by the Free Beacon. One former camper, who sued Warnock and the camp, told the Free Beacon that counselors locked him out of the cabin overnight and poured urine on him.
Warnock also has a history of controversial statements. He argued in late 2016 that Americans needed to "repent" for their "worship of whiteness," the Free Beacon reported in 2020. He also defended a speech by anti-Semitic pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright—which compared U.S. leaders to al Qaeda and claimed the government invented HIV to kill black people—as a "very fine sermon."