Democratic senator Raphael Warnock defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff election on Tuesday, ensuring Democrats an outright majority in the US Senate.
President Joe Biden’s party now holds the upper chamber of Congress by 51-49. The result caps a disappointing round of midterm election results for the Republicans. There will be a divided government, however, with Republicans having narrowly flipped House control.
In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker by thirty-seven thousand votes out of almost four million cast but fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Warnock, who became the first black senator in the Deep South state when he first won his seat in January 2021, told his victory party at an Atlanta hotel ballroom: “It is my honor to utter the four most powerful words ever spoken in a democracy: the people have spoken!”
The 53-year-old southern Baptist preacher, whose Atlanta church was once led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King, gave a special thank you to his mother.
He said she had grown up in the 1950s “picking someone else’s cotton” in Georgia. Tonight, he said, she had “helped pick her youngest son to be a United States senator.”
Democrats win outright control of the Senate after Georgia
Walker’s Senate bid was the last Republican opportunity to flip a Senate seat after Trump-backed candidates lost in New Hampshire, Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. Other Senate contenders Trump championed won in Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.
Tuesday night’s victory means that although most legislation will still need Republican support, it will be slightly easier for President Biden to appoint judges and members of his administration, the BBC says.
If Democrats had lost Georgia, the party’s control of a 50-50 Senate would have depended on US Vice-President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote, it adds.
CNN reports that the Democrats will now enter 2023 with a true Senate majority and one that won’t require the power-sharing agreement that has been in place over the last two years in an evenly divided chamber.
That outright majority means that Democrats will have the majority on committees, allowing them to advance Biden’s nominees more easily.