Georgia runoff: What’s at stake as voters head to the polls on Tuesday

What’s at stake in the Georgia runoff as voters head to the polls: Democrats will be able to push through Biden’s liberal judge nominees and Cabinet appointments if Warnock beats Walker in the final Senate runoff

  • Polls opened at 7am across Georgia on Tuesday and will close at 7pm
  • Early images already show voters lining up in rainy Atlanta before the sunrise 
  • Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock spent Monday night with supporters at a DJ dance party at an Atlanta, Georgia brewery 
  • Republican ex-NFL star Herschel Walker’s final Monday event was at a gun range
  • If Warnock wins on Tuesday, Democrats will grow their current majority by one
  • That would mean the end of a power-sharing agreement in Senate committees 

Georgia voters are deciding today whether to give Senate Democrats an extra seat to cushion their majority in next year’s Congress.

Holding 51 seats in the Senate would mean Democrats gain decisive control over all committees and lessen the influence of any one lawmaker within the party who chooses to dissent from the party line. 

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, a reverend who leads the congregation Martin Luther King Jr. once did, spent his last day before the election energizing voters with a DJ dance party at an Atlanta brewery

Donald Trump-backed former NFL star Herschel Walker, his challenger, spent Monday night with supporters at a gun range in rural Cobb County.

Neither candidate secured a majority of the vote in the November 8 midterms, pushing them into a runoff election on Tuesday that’s being watched across the nation.

Polls opened at 7am in the East Coast state and close at 7pm. 

Photos show a rainy Atlanta morning as voters armed with umbrellas line up before the sunrise to cast a ballot. 

With the race expected to be tight, it’s possible a winner may not be called until Wednesday or later.

Last month, President Joe Biden’s party defied expectations to retain control of the Senate despite a myriad of polls suggesting a Republican landslide in both chambers of Congress. 

Polls opened at 7am in Georgia and will close at 7pm for the Senate runoff election on Tuesday

Polls opened at 7am in Georgia and will close at 7pm for the Senate runoff election on Tuesday

Peach State voters lined up outside of polling stations before the sunrise for the nationally-watched election

Peach State voters lined up outside of polling stations before the sunrise for the nationally-watched election

Neither Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock nor Republican challenger Herschel Walker netted the majority threshold needed to avoid today's race

Neither Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock nor Republican challenger Herschel Walker netted the majority threshold needed to avoid today’s race

Biden tweeted in support of Warnock on Tuesday morning: ‘Georgia, today is Election Day—and the eyes of the nation are on you.’

‘Head to the polls and help send [Warnock] back to the U.S. Senate,’ the president said.

If Walker wins on Tuesday, not much will change in the dynamics of the Senate.

Democrats’ victory in flipping Pennsylvania’s red Senate seat to blue ensures that they’ll still have a 50-50 split, even if Warnock loses.

But a victory by the progressive pastor would give Democrats a decisive majority without needing Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

Under current rules, Harris’ position gives Democrats the majority.

On the committee level, however, both parties operate under a power-sharing agreement with an even number of senators on each side.

A 51-seat majority would give Democrats an extra seat over Republicans on Senate committees, enabling a smoother confirmation process for Biden’s appointments to the judiciary and executive branches.

Nominees would have more of a chance to advance out of committees on a party-line vote – even if one of the president’s fellow Democrats dissents.

Walker, a former NFL star, greeted supporters on Tuesday morning at Marietta Diner in Marietta, Georgia

Walker, a former NFL star, greeted supporters on Tuesday morning at Marietta Diner in Marietta, Georgia

Warnock, who voted early, spent Tuesday night hosting a DJ dance party for his supporters at an Atlanta brewery

Warnock, who voted early, spent Tuesday night hosting a DJ dance party for his supporters at an Atlanta brewery

For example, it was West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition to Sarah Bloom Raskin – who Biden tapped to be the Federal Reserve’s chief bank cop – that doomed her nomination before it could come for a vote.

Her progressive background was also slammed by every Senate Republican.

Likewise, Manchin put the nail in the coffin of Biden’s progressive-backed Build Back Better spending bill in December 2021.

It was stymied by opposition from him and fellow conservative Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who each had issues with separate parts of the bill – ensuring any negotiations were an uphill battle from the get-go.

If Warnock wins, then Democrats could afford to lose either Manchin or Sinema’s support on Biden appointments or reconciliation bills and still have a hope of passing them.

In the general election, Warnock finished just ahead of his GOP challenger, 1,943,737 votes to 1,907,272 votes, or 0.9 percent. But thanks to a third-party challenger neither candidate was able to breach the 50 percent threshold and so the top two finishers compete again, per Georgia’s election law.

If voters give Warnock a full term, Democrats will expand their Senate majority by one seat

If voters give Warnock a full term, Democrats will expand their Senate majority by one seat

It was a rainy morning on runoff election day in Georgia's capital city of Atlanta

It was a rainy morning on runoff election day in Georgia’s capital city of Atlanta 

According to the latest polling Warnock is still running ahead – 52 to 48 percent according to the latest CNN poll.  

Peach State residents have now endured another excruciating month of mud-slinging campaign ads to flood their airwaves as each candidate trades dirt on the other.

The race has been focused on two things – each candidate tying the other to their party’s national leaders and moral character attacks, with each shedding light on the other’s dicey history.

For Warnock, that means framing Walker as a fundamentally unserious Trump acolyte, and letting a slew of accusations relating to domestic violence and paying for abortions speak for themselves. 

For Walker, that means framing his opponent as too liberal for Georgia and tying him to Biden’s agenda, which he blames for 40-year-high inflation, and going after his church’s murky charity operation.

Already more than 1.8 million have cast their ballots, either in person or absentee, during early voting. 

That total surpassed those who cast ballots in runoffs in 2018 and 2016, the state data shows, though likely won’t surpass the ballots cast in 2021, when Warnock was locked in a race with then-GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Sen. Jon Ossoff was taking on then- Sen. David Perdue. 

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