Hello, and welcome back to The Election Recap, your one-stop shop for the last seven days of Georgia runoff-related news. Let's get into it:
We have a winner
It's official: Sen. Raphael Warnock, Georgia's first Black U.S. senator, is returning to Capitol Hill. The Democratic incumbent last week defeated his Republican challenger and former professional football player Herschel Walker in a decisive but nonetheless close runoff race. Warnock ultimately walked away from the contest with 51.4 percent of the vote, while his opponent clinched just 48.6 percent, and will now serve a full six-year term. "After a hard-fought campaign, or should I say campaigns, it is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: the people have spoken," Warnock told supporters gathered at a hotel watch party. "[B]ecause this is America and because we always have a path to make our country greater against unspeakable odds, here we stand together. Thank you, Georgia."
Taking the L
As Warnock celebrated with his supporters nearby, Walker greeted his base with a concession speech. "The numbers look like they're not going to add up," the Trump-backed candidate told supporters gathered at the College Football Hall of Fame. "There's no excuses in life, and I'm not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight." He added that the "best thing I've ever done in my whole entire life is run for this Senate seat right here," and that he'll never "stop fighting for Georgia. I'm never going to stop fighting for you because you're my family." But soon chiming in with less inspiring words was Walker's son and conservative social media influencer Christian Walker, who issued yet another rebuke of his father's failed candidacy on Twitter: "Don't beat women, hold guns to people's heads, fund abortions then pretend you're pro-life, stalk cheerleaders, leave your multiple minor children alone to chase more fame, lie, lie, lie, say stupid crap, and make a fool of your family. And then maybe you can win a Senate seat."
Democrats would have controlled the Senate whether or not Warnock won — but there was a distinct advantage to a 51-49 majority on which members were eager to capitalize. Well, their wish came true … but perhaps only for a second, thanks to Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona, who on Friday announced she'd be defecting from the Democratic Party to become an independent. Sinema told Politico that "[n]othing will change" about her values or behavior, and that she does not plan to caucus with the GOP. "I intend to show up to work, do the same work that I always do. I just intend to show up to work as an independent." But we'll see, of course, what actually happens — Sinema has long marched to the beat of her own drum, and that probably won't stop anytime soon, especially now that she's at least somewhat free from the shackles of partisan politics. In the meantime, however, check out this incredibly helpful summary from The Week's Rafi Schwartz detailing how exactly we got to this point and what might come next.
Under the law
Georgia Democrats' success in the last three Senate runoffs has cast newfound scrutiny on a controversial state election law from 2021, under which the number and location of ballot drop boxes were limited and the early voting window for a runoff was shortened, among other changes, multiple outlets report. In fact, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has already told The New York Times that changes to the law are possible following the 2022 contest. Raffensberger said he would present lawmakers with three potential proposals: forcing large counties to offer more early-voting locations to cut down on long lines at polling places; lowering the runoff threshold from 50 percent of the vote to just 45; and enacting a "ranked-choice" voting system that would function like an instant runoff and avoid any return to the polls. "The elected legislators need to have information so they can look at all the different options that they have and really see what they're comfortable with," Raffensperger told the Times, noting any debate on the matter would come next year. Otherwise, Raffensperger and his GOP counterparts are pointing to the strong turnout and results of both the general election and runoff as evidence the law is not as suppressive as Democrats have claimed. From a political standpoint, both parties would likely be happy to do away with runoffs — Democrats, for example, have long decried the practice, which is rooted in racist, 1960s-era efforts to prevent Black candidates from taking office. And it's otherwise "asking a lot from voters" to turn up again for a runoff "when there's a simple way that achieves the same outcome," Daniel Baggerman of Better Ballot Georgia told CNN.
- 3 numbers that show how Warnock won. [Politico]
- Did the GOP learn anything from Walker's loss? The Week's Harold Maass investigates. [The Week]
- What the Georgia runoff can tell us about 2024 ... [The Atlantic]
- …and what warnings it can offer to both parties. (Spoiler: Republicans, ditch Trump; Democrats, stay humble.) [The Wall Street Journal]
- Was Herschel Walker doomed from the start? [The Week]
- Trump's no good, very bad three weeks. [The Week]
Coming up …
- We're just weeks away from a new congressional term, set to begin on Jan. 3. So until then, happy holidays, happy new year, and thank you once again for reading along.