The result of the final significant election in the U.S. for 2022 is out, and it's good news for the Democratic party.
Raphael Warnock, the incumbent Senator for Georgia, defeated his opponent Herschel Walker of the Republican party in a runoff election following the U.S. midterms.
This result confirmed a Democratic majority of 51-49 in the U.S. Senate, and a full six-year term for Warnock.
Various news networks projected a victory for Warnock on Dec. 7 (Singapore time) after he secured a relatively small but steady lead of around 30,000 votes, although his final margin of victory may end up being larger.
In his victory speech, Warnock said, "The people have spoken."
Herschel Walker, Trump's candidate
Walker, a former American football star, was backed by former Republican President Donald Trump in the Republican primary.
He had good name recognition among Georgia voters, having been a former college football champion with the University of Georgia in the 1980s.
For the national midterm election in November 2022, Walker faced off against Reverend Raphael Warnock, a pastor and senator who first won election in 2020.
However, as Warnock beat a senator who had only two years left to go in her term, it meant that he was up for re-election in 2022.
The national environment looked good for Walker, as high inflation and the traditional backlash against the incumbent president's party was in his favour.
But Walker got caught up in a number of pointed questions over his business dealings as he moved under the national spotlight.
According to AP, Walker claimed that he ran a company that employed hundreds of people and grossed US$80 million (S$108.8 million) in sales annually.
However, while applying for a Covid-19 related loan from the federal government, it reported just eight employees. And in a recent court case, Walker stated that the company averaged about US$1.5 million (S$2.04 million) a year in profit from 2008 to 2017.
His personal life also turned up worrying revelations, as multiple women who were Walker's ex-wives and girlfriends came forward with allegations of physical abuse and threats.
CNN reported, "Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, told CNN in a 2008 interview that Walker had held a razor to her throat, and at one point, “he held [a] gun to my temple and said he was going to blow my brains out."
When the 2022 midterm election was over, Warnock had defeated Walker by just under 40,000 votes, with a third-party candidate taking around 80,000 votes. However, Warnock received 49.44 per cent of the total vote.
Due to Georgia law, a winning candidate that does not secure 50 per cent of the total vote must run again in a runoff election. This set the stage for another closely watched contest.
Now that the midterms were over, both parties were free to bring their full resources to bear in this one contest.
However, results elsewhere would have an impact on the Georgia race. As Democratic senator Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada won her contest and John Fetterman flipped a previously Republican-held seat, the Democrats were assured of 50 senators in the 100-member Senate.
This meant that with Vice President Kamala Harris's tie-breaker, the Democrats would have control of the Senate no matter the result in Georgia. This may have dampened Republican enthusiasm for Walker's campaign, as it was less consequential.
Still, Republicans put in extra effort to help Walker get re-elected. Georgia governor Brian Kemp, fresh off his own recent victory, campaigned for Walker.
Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina visited Georgia to help boost Walker. However, one big name was conspicuously absent -- former Republican President Donald Trump.
Unlike 2021, Trump did not hold in-person rallies in the Georgia runoff to support the Republican candidate. Instead, his presence was reduced to online fundraising and taking part in a tele-rally before the voting.
It is a mark of Trump's reduced influence on national contests, following the Republican party's less-than-stellar performance in the overall midterms.
While they did manage to retake the House, it was by far fewer seats than they anticipated. And some Republican figures are blaming Trump-backed candidates who failed as a key reason for not winning the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Democrats could call on former President Barack Obama, who made speeches in support of Warnock.
Obama's popularity with African American voters, a key voting bloc in Georgia, may have given Warnock the edge.
Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed out the advantages conferred on the Democrats with Warnock's 51st vote in the Senate.
Big benefit of having 51 D senators for the @WhiteHouse is that Democrats will control committees in the Senate which means they can move through judicial nominees (without potential for process shenanigans) and also makes it harder for one senator to be too all powerful— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) December 7, 2022
With the Democrats facing rebellious senators in their own ranks, one rogue senator will no longer be enough to derail their legislative agenda.
U.S. President Joe Biden will be well aware of the significance of Warnock's victory.
He congratulated Warnock in a tweet:
Just called @SenatorWarnock to congratulate him on his win.— President Biden (@POTUS) December 7, 2022
Tonight Georgia voters stood up for our democracy, rejected Ultra MAGAism, and most importantly: sent a good man back to the Senate. Here’s to six more years. pic.twitter.com/ibx5aprVs3
Mothership is taking a look at the U.S. midterm elections. Check out the other stories in our series:
Top image from MSNBC YouTube.