WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff, giving the Democratic Party an outright 51-49 Senate majority.
Warnock, who will now serve a full six-year term in the Senate after winning the 2020 special election, won in a race where the Peach State's local Jewish population proved consequential, given how disproportionately local Jews vote compared to the makeup of the general population.
Both candidates and national Jewish organizations invested significant manpower and financial resources into corralling Georgia's 100,000 registered Jewish voters (36,000 of whom identify as Democrats and a further 50,000 as independents), highlighting the importance of the Black-Jewish alliance that helped propel Warnock and fellow Democrat Sen. Jon Ossoff to victory in 2020.
After averting defeat for one month thanks to Georgia's electoral system, Walker now meets the fate of many Donald Trump-endorsed candidates deemed too extreme by the electorate. The race was among the most highly monitored during the midterms cycle due to controversies related to Walker’s personal life and the apparent lack of impact these had on his electoral prospects as the Republicans unsuccessfully sought to flip the Senate.
Kanye West’s antisemitic tirades were beginning to make national headlines prior to the midterms, and Walker’s critics used his failure to condemn the rapper as an attack point amid rising antisemitism. Walker's continued embrace of Trump over the past month, despite the former president’s waning local popularity and his embrace of avowed antisemites West and Nick Fuentes, undoubtedly alienated even more voters.
Walker came under fire last year when a film producer due to host a pro-Walker fundraiser was revealed to have displayed an anti-vaccine symbol in the shape of a swastika on her Twitter profile. His campaign initially botched its condemnation, saying it was “clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic,” while noting Walker “unequivocally opposes antisemitism and bigotry of all kinds.” The campaign would soon reverse course and cancel the fundraiser.
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He also attracted criticism for invoking his devotion to Jesus during a candidate forum with local Republican Jewish voters, and Georgia Republicans circulated a fundraising email for Walker centering around criticisms of George Soros – a frequent target of antisemitic tropes by Republican lawmakers. Warnock, meanwhile, played up his dedication to the Black-Jewish alliance as Republicans attempted to paint him as one of the most ardent anti-Israel Democrats in Congress.
“DMFI PAC is thrilled to congratulate Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock on his re-election to a full term in the U.S. Senate. Voters in Georgia turned decidedly against the politics of division put forth by former President Trump’s handpicked candidate — whose dishonesty and inexperience made a mockery of the Republican Party — and instead chose in Sen. Warnock a man of conscience and conviction, who has consistently delivered on his commitments to his constituents, to the Biden-Harris agenda, and to the U.S.-Israel relationship," DMFI PAC Chair Mark Mellman said.
The Jewish-Democratic establishment came out in full force in hopes of bolstering Warnock, while leading Republican Jews maintained support for Walker until the very end.