As Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker enter the week-and-a-half post-Thanksgiving sprint to a Dec. 6 runoff, some Georgia counties will begin Saturday. One week early voting period.
Unlike the 2021 runoff, control of the Senate is not in jeopardy, with Democrats having won 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris giving the party a tie-breaking vote.
However, the stakes remain high: If Warnock wins, the Democrats will gain a straight majority without the need for a power-sharing deal that has been struck so far. Democrats will have a majority on the committee, making it easier for them to advance President Joe Biden’s nomination.
The Georgia Supreme Court declared Warnock the winner on Wednesday, allowing counties to vote early Saturday. Democrats said they expected as many as 22 counties to do so — some in the densely populated area around Atlanta, including DeKalb and Fulton, as well as Chatham County, where Savannah is located.
The ruling follows a legal battle over Georgia Secretary of State Brad Ravensperger’s interpretation of the state’s 2021 voting law. The new law limits weekend voting immediately after the holiday, he said.
The 2021 law cuts the time for runoff elections in half to four weeks and limits the early voting window to at least five days instead of the minimum of 16 days when Democrats won the state’s two Senate runoffs. January 2021.
As many as 22 of the state’s 159 counties allow voters to cast ballots on Saturdays.
At a polling place in Atlanta, Emma DeMiglio, a student at Boston College, said she might not be able to vote in person if early polling places were not open.
“This is the only time I’ve been in Georgia and been able to vote. I’m leaving tomorrow, so I’m really glad I can put it in,” she said, adding that she may have tried to contest an absentee ballot.
Warnock went on to overtake Walker as they went into the closing stages.
Warnock raised nearly $52.2 million from Oct. 20 to Nov. 16, a period that covers roughly the first week of the general election and the runoff. Walker had raised $20.9 million at the time, according to his campaign’s filings with the Federal Election Commission. Warnock ended the period with more than $29.7 million in the bank, more than three times the $9.8 million left in his rival’s coffers.
Warnock will bring in a top Democratic surrogate: Former President Barack Obama is scheduled to travel to Atlanta on Thursday for a rally before the final day of early voting.
Obama is so far the only former or current president planning to visit Georgia ahead of the runoff election.
Neither Walker’s campaign is trying to woo Warnock’s President Joe Biden nor former President Donald Trump, who was in office when the Republicans lost the Senate runoff two years ago, has scheduled a trip to the state. Warnock appeared with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) at a rally in Sandy Springs outside Atlanta on Saturday.
Trump allies, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have campaigned for Walker, and the former president himself is not campaigning with the candidates he has recruited.
Meanwhile, other Republicans are rallying around Walker, and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has pumped more than $10 million into the campaign since the election.
In addition to the influx of new outside spending, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who won re-election earlier this month, appeared alongside Walker for the first time after heavily arming the former football superstar throughout the fall. on the track.
Kemp defeated a Trump-backed primary challenger in May and then overtook Walker in the general election by more than 200,000 votes — a sign both of his crossover appeal to moderate Democrats and of Walker’s difficulty consolidating Republicans .
Democrats, however, said they doubted Kemp would be able to save Walker in the runoff, as Walker was the only Republican on the ballot.
“There were a lot of people voting for Raphael Warnock and Brian Kemp,” said Jason Carter, the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.
He called Warnock a “unique figure,” noting he “got more votes than Herschel Walker, and he got more votes than any other Democrat.”
“People appreciate him. They think of him as Raphael Warnock first, his party and all that stuff second,” Carter said.
On Wednesday, a new potential flashpoint emerged in the runoff. The Georgia Supreme Court also reinstated the state’s six-week abortion ban in a separate legal proceeding.
It’s a policy victory for Republicans who enacted the ban and defended it in court, but could come at a political cost, reigniting backlash against the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the It has galvanized Democrats and swayed moderate voters who expressed support for the party’s unexpectedly strong performance in this year’s midterm elections.
In the midterm elections, 28 percent of Georgia voters said abortion was the most important issue on their votes — second only to inflation at 37 percent, according to a CNN exit poll.
Of those who said abortion was the most important issue, 77% backed Warnock, compared with 21% who voted for Walker – a reversal of inflation, who had 45 votes on the issue percentage point.
Of 53 percent of Georgia voters who said abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, 75 percent of those voters backed Warnock. At 43 percent who said it should be illegal in all or most circumstances, 87 percent backed Walker.
The two parties have spent more than $40 million on TV advertising in the runoff. Democratic groups spent nearly $25 million, while Republican groups spent nearly $16 million, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact.
In an effort to unite Republican factions, the Walker super PAC is sending out mail touting Kemp’s support and trying to link Warnock with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. “You blocked Stacy. Now reject Warnock,” they read.
“Who do you want to fight for in the U.S. Senate? Do you want someone who represents our values like Herschel Walker, or do you want someone who is with Joe Biden 96 percent of the time?” Kemp Borrowing Walker’s familiar attack, he said at a rally in Cobb County last weekend. .
Kemp also echoed this line of attack in a new TV ad for SLF. The governor’s and McConnell’s teams are also joining forces for the vote. SLF is boosting Kemp’s state operations with a $2 million capital injection, which has been turned to help Walker.
Warnock’s campaign is also trying to win over Republicans who actually chose Kemp over Trump.
A new ad by Warnock’s campaign features a woman who says she voted for Kemp this year and describes herself as a lifelong Republican, but then goes on to say she won’t support Walker in the runoff because he “lacks character.”
Warnock is also campaigning in what should be Walker’s safest territory: his hometown. At an event in Wrightsville, where Walker played his high school football, Warnock asked voters to separate sports heroes from political candidates.
“I saw what your favorite son was doing on the football field. I don’t mind giving credit where credit is due. That brother would dazzle you on that football field. He created a lot of excitement and contributed to the great Georgia The University has done a lot. He deserves credit,” Warnock said. “But tonight, we’re in a different field.”
Meanwhile, the Republican faced backlash for his ad — University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines has appeared alongside Walker and competed with transgender swimmer Leah Thomas, who became the center of attention around trans Gender The focus of the debate on female participation in sports is often attacked by the conservative media.
“I’ve been working hard for over a decade. Practice at four in the morning to be the best. But in my senior year, I was forced to compete with a biological male,” Gaines said in the ad.
The ad comes days after a gunman allegedly targeted the LGBTQ community at a gay club in Colorado. One of the five people killed was transgender.