Neither Republican Herschel Walker nor incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) was winning the U.S. Senate race in Georgia with a majority as of early Wednesday morning, and the two candidates are now headed for a runoff election on December 6, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Warnock was beating Walker by a razor-thin margin of less than one percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting, according to the state’s unofficial results.
Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver had two percent of the vote, enough to dent Walker’s and Warnock’s chances of crossing the 50 percent threshold required by state law to win the election outright.
Secretary of State Chief Operating Officer Gabriel Sterling wrote on social media shortly after 2:00 a.m., “While county officials are still doing the detailed work on counting the votes, we feel it is safe to say there will be a runoff.”
While county officials are still doing the detailed work on counting the votes, we feel it is safe to say there will be a runoff for the US Senate here in Georgia slated for December 6. #gapol pic.twitter.com/uwMF2EoDzO
— Gabriel Sterling (@GabrielSterling) November 9, 2022
The expectation of a runoff race comes after Warnock won his initial election in 2021 in one of two blockbuster Senate races in Georgia that led to Democrats taking control of the Senate majority.
This year’s runoff scenario could be all too familiar depending on the final race calls in Nevada and Arizona, where vote counting is ongoing and the races remain too close to call. If Republicans win one of those, the Senate majority would once again hinge on Georgia’s runoff race.
In a change from 2020, a runoff race would last four weeks rather than nine weeks, a result of Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) election overhaul bill signed into law in 2021.
Both Walker’s and Warnock’s campaigns expressed optimism Tuesday night about their prospects of winning.
Walker, a University of Georgia football legend and former NFL player, evoked fictional NASCAR hero Ricky Bobby of Talladega Nights as he spoke to supporters at an election night event in Atlanta.
“I’m like Ricky Bobby. I don’t come to lose,” Walker said. “I told you he’s going to be tough to beat, but let me tell you what. He got the wrong Georgian here don’t he?”
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) November 9, 2022
Warnock, a longtime pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, appeared before a crowd after 1:30 a.m., touting he was ahead of Walker.
“We are not sure if this journey is over tonight or if there’s still a little work yet to do, but here is what we do know. We know that when they’re finished counting the votes from today’s election that we are going to have received more votes than my opponent,” Warnock said.
Sen. Warnock: "We are not sure if this journey is over tonight or if there's still a little work yet to do, but here's what we do know; we know that when they're finished counting the votes from today's election, that we're going to have received more votes than my opponent." pic.twitter.com/8MtZJOSALu
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 9, 2022
The marquee election, which is now set to stretch into a grueling runoff, has become one of the most expensive and competitive races in the country.
The race has cost a jaw-dropping $271 million, second only to battleground Pennsylvania in terms of total money spent, according to OpenSecrets.
Turnout this year indicated enthusiasm was high. More than 3.9 million ballots were cast in Georgia’s midterms, which is more than half of the total active number of voters.