Democratic senator Raphael Warnock won the Georgia Senate election on Tuesday, securing his first full six-year term and giving Democrats control of the upper chamber next year.
The race was a coup for Democrats, who had been forced to share some committee powers with Republicans over the past two years, even while holding a technical Senate majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote.
The Georgia race was one of the most competitive in the country, with outside groups spending over $380 million in the state, according to OpenSecrets. During the month-long runoff alone, Democrats outspent Republicans by a two-to-one margin, with Warnock and outside supporting groups pouring $57 million into the race, Fox News reported.
Walker’s win gives Democrats full control in the Senate, with 51 members compared to 49 for Republicans. Under a power-sharing agreement in the previous 50-50 Senate, Democrats controlled the committee chairmanships but both parties were allowed to appoint the same number of committee members.
Tuesday’s head-to-head rematch between Warnock and Walker came a month after the November election, when neither candidate was able to crack 50-percent in a race that included a third-party challenger. Under Georgia law, if no candidate wins a majority in the first race, the top two are required to compete in a runoff election.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Walker hammered Warnock over his church-owned apartment building’s attempts to evict low-income tenants, a story first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
The building, which is owned by Ebenezer Baptist Church where Warnock continues to serve as senior pastor, filed eviction proceedings against over a dozen residents since the start of the pandemic, including one who owed just $28.50 in late rent. The apartment complex has also been hit with multiple housing code violations by the City of Atlanta for overflowing trash, rodent and pest infestations and mold issues, according to records obtained by the Free Beacon. The complex hired a previously-convicted murderer as a maintenance man who went on to kill a tenant in 2020, and has had other crime and safety issues, the Free Beacon also reported.
Walker launched a seven-figure ad campaign last week that featured one tenant, a Vietnam war veteran, who the building tried to evict over $119 in late rent.
The ad also highlighted domestic abuse allegations against Warnock by his ex-wife Oulèye Ndoye, who told police he ran over her foot with his Tesla in 2020—an allegation Warnock denied.
Warnock and Ndoye are currently embroiled in a contentious custody battle, with her claiming the senator neglected his time with their two kids and left her "financially strapped" by failing to reimburse her for childcare, the Free Beacon reported.
Warnock also faced scrutiny for taking a $7,400-per-month, income-tax-free housing allowance from the church last year, a loophole that let him dodge federal limits on outside income for senators, the Free Beacon reported. Financial disclosure records show Warnock more than doubled his salary since taking office in 2021, with most of that money coming from outside income and book deals.
Walker, a college football and NFL star, campaigned on a pro-business and tough-on-crime platform.
Warnock was elected to the Senate in a 2021 special election, and has faced several controversies during his past two campaigns.
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.
"I don’t think nobody like [Warnock] should be running for damn Senate nowhere, running a camp like that," the camper, who is now in his 30s, told the Free Beacon in 2020. "He should not be running for government."
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."