Democrats score advantage with special voting rules in Georgia Senate runoff

A decision that will allow heavily Democratic counties to begin early voting Saturday in Georgia’s Senate runoff is poised to give incumbent Raphael Warnock an edge and create another hurdle for Republican Herschel Walker, who must find a way to motivate tepid GOP voters to run for him on Dec. 6.

While the race is seen as a toss-up, Mr Walker is seen as the underdog after not only failing to win more than 50% of the vote in the November 8 general election but also underperforming the Republican governor Brian Kemp, who was re-elected. outright by beating Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams by 7 points.

Neither Mr Warnock nor Mr Walker exceeded 50% in the midterm elections, falling short of the support needed to avoid a runoff. Mr Walker finished behind Mr Warnock by around 35,000 votes out of more than 4 million votes cast.

Both parties are eager to claim the seat. While Democrats retained a majority in the Senate in the midterm elections, the runoff gives the party a chance to increase its rank to 51, although its power to push legislation into President Biden’s office is blunted. by a new GOP majority in the House.

Republicans are aiming to keep the Senate evenly divided with a victory for Walker, although Vice President Kamal Harris’ decisive vote ensures Democrats control of the gavel.

An appeals court dealt a blow to Walker’s campaign Nov. 21, dismissing efforts by state election officials to block early voting from taking place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Lawyers for the Democratic Party and the Warnock campaign fought in court to get the ballots open on Saturday, despite a law Republicans say bans it, and now that they have won that right. He should give Mr. Warnock an extra boost.

While the decision opened voting Saturday for any county in Georgia, the state’s GOP hasn’t held it in any of their strongholds, and so far only high-density Democratic areas in the Georgia’s major cities, including Atlanta, have plans in place to open the polls on Saturday.

“It poses additional challenges for Republicans who should have instead pushed for all 160 counties to offer the vote on Saturday,” Georgia pollster Matt Towery said.

Republican counties, Towery said, “tend to be smaller and can’t prepare on short notice,” for voting to begin Saturday in light of the decision.
That only adds to Mr Walker’s challenges in his bid to unseat Mr Warnock, who has essentially campaigned since 2020 and established himself as a capable incumbent.

Mr. Warnock, 53, senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta, won the Senate seat in the January 2021 runoff election to fill the term vacated by the late Johnny Isakson.

Democrats have worked to define Mr. Walker, 60, a former college football star and NFL player, as ill-equipped and unprepared to take on the job of a senator. He was also dogged by accusations of former girlfriends he paid off and encouraged them to have abortions, claims that damaged his credibility as a pro-life candidate and family man.

Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing one of the women, held a press conference on Tuesday to refute Mr Walker’s denials that he pressured the woman to have an abortion three years ago decades while he was married and the two had an affair.

Mr Walker said he did not know the woman and the anonymous accuser dared Mr Walker to meet her in person on Tuesday.
Jessica Taylor, editor of the Cook Political Report which tracks Senate races, said Mr Walker’s lackluster performance on November 8 could also see him fall in the second round.

A new AARP poll shows Mr Warnock leading Mr Warner by 4 points, although the lead is within the margin of error.

Among the bloc of critical and independent voters, Mr Warnock was ahead by 15 points, according to the poll.

“It’s very substantial,” Ms Taylor said. “And it’s voters who decide elections in nearby states like Georgia.”

The second round drew lorries full of campaign money to the state and according to early figures Mr Warnock is spending more than Mr Walker.
Mr. Warnock and the groups that support him have spent $16.9 million on advertising so far, according to tracking firm AdImpact, NBC News reported.

Mr. Walker and the GOP groups, by comparison, spent just $5.4 million on advertising.

Republicans are ready to catch up. The Senate Leadership Fund, which is the super PAC aligned with Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has pledged to spend $14.2 million to help defeat Mr. Warnock.

Mr Walker could also benefit from Mr Kemp’s new involvement in the race.

While Mr Kemp kept Mr Walker at bay as he ran for governor, he is now actively working to help Mr Walker win the runoff, dedicating his successful re-election campaign team to the effort.

Ms Taylor said Mr Kemp’s involvement could help, but it is unclear how much of a role she will play in urging voters to turn out for Mr Walker when he has been unable to earn anywhere near support level when aligned alongside other states. GOP candidates in the Nov. 8 ballot.

“The flashing red light for me is how much he underperformed these other Republicans,” Ms. Taylor said. “And when he’s the only Republican on the ballot, are those people going to come back?”


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