Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock will win Georgia Senate runoff

By Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Seán Federico-O'Murchú and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 2:12 PM ET, Thu December 8, 2022
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12:02 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

For the first time in a century, every Senate incumbent won

Analysis from CNN’s Harry Enten

(Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters/File)
(Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters/File)

One of the most common refrains in politics is that voters hate Washington and want outsiders to be elected to office. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s victory in Georgia’s Senate runoff is part of a trend that suggests that, at least in 2022, that wasn’t true.  

Each of the 29 Senate incumbents who ran for reelection this year won. It is the first time in at least a century in which no incumbent senator seeking reelection lost.  

So what happened?

I’ll have more on this on Wednesday morning, but to put it simply:

  • Bad challenger quality.
  • A map without a lot of competitive races taking place in an era of high polarization.
  • An unusually tight national environment.
11:48 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Biden posts photo of congratulatory call to Warnock: "Tonight Georgia voters stood up for our democracy"

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

President Biden placed a congratulatory phone call to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock shortly after he returned to the White House Tuesday. The White House just posted a photo of the call on Twitter. 

“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,” the post said. 

See the photo:

1:39 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Schumer calls Warnock's runoff win a "victory for Georgia, and a victory for democracy"

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock's win in Georgia’s Senate runoff will allow Democrats to secure a slim 51-49 majority over the GOP in the chamber. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrated Tuesday night with a series of tweets, calling the results a "victory for Georgia, and a victory for democracy."

1:06 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Warnock cautions that outcome of election does not mean there is no voter suppression in Georgia

US Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks at his election night party in Atlanta.
US Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks at his election night party in Atlanta. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is projected to win reelection after a runoff against Republican challenger Herschel Walker, cautioned people against viewing the outcome as evidence that voter suppression doesn't exist in Georgia.

“Let me be clear: Just because people endured long lines that wrapped around buildings, some blocks long, just because they endured the rain and the cold and all kinds of tricks in order to vote, does not mean that voter suppression does not exist. It simply means that you the people have decided that your voices will not be silenced," he said during his victory speech Tuesday.

He pointed to a court decision of the election that allowed counties to offer early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

State election officials had previously argued that early voting on Nov. 26 was not allowed because it violated state law prohibiting voting on Saturday if there is a state holiday on the Thursday or Friday before.

“But we sued them and we won," Warnock said.

11:45 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Warnock says he is an iteration of the state's complex history: "I am Georgia"

US Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters on Tuesday night.
US Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters on Tuesday night. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock drew parallels from Georgia's complex history to his own life and deep roots in the state during his victory speech Tuesday night after CNN projected he won the runoff race.

He noted that his mother grew up in the 1950’s in Waycross, Georgia, “picking somebody else’s cotton and somebody else’s tobacco — but tonight she helped pick her youngest son to be a United State’s senator.”

Warnock went on to say that he watched his late father "a pastor and a small business man, take care of his family by working really hard with his hands."

"I am a proud son of Savannah, Georgia," he told his supporters.

He continued: "A coastal city known for its verdant town squares and cobblestone streets — tall, majestic oak trees. Dripping with Spanish moss. Bend and back in the love of history and horticulture to this city by the sea. My roots, like the roots of those oak tree's go deep down into the soil of Savannah and Waycross and Screven County and Burke County. I am Georgia. I am an example and an iteration of its history. Of its pain and promise, the brutality and the possibility. But because this is America. And because we always have a path to make our country greater against unspeakable odds, here we stand together. Thank you Georgia."

As Warnock becomes the state's first Black senator to win a full term, Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic tie-breaking role in the Senate will likely be less necessary because of the additional vote.

CNN's Jasmine Wright contributed reporting to this post.

11:44 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Warnock: "The people have spoken"

US Sen. Raphael Warnock waves to supporters at his election night party in Atlanta.
US Sen. Raphael Warnock waves to supporters at his election night party in Atlanta. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock thanked supporters in his victory speech Tuesday night, stating, "The people have spoken."

Speaking to a boisterous crowd of supporters, he said:

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart and to God be the glory for the great things that God has done. And after a hard-fought campaign – or should I say campaigns – it is my honor to utter the most four most powerful words in a democracy: The people have spoken," he said.

CNN projected Warnock will defeat GOP challenger Herschel Walker, handing Democrats a key win that will give them greater leverage in the Senate next year.

“I want all of Georgia to know, whether you voted for me or not, that every single day I am going to keep working for you," Warnock said. “I'm proud of the bipartisan work I’ve done and I intend to do more."

The senator pledged to keep working on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, creating jobs and advocating for criminal justice reform.

1:07 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

NOW: Warnock speaks to supporters after CNN projects runoff win

From CNN's Maeve Reston

US Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks at his election night party in Atlanta.
US Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks at his election night party in Atlanta. (CNN)

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is speaking to supporters in Atlanta after CNN projected he will win Georgia’s Senate runoff, handing Democrats a key win that will give them greater leverage in the Senate next year.

With his defeat of Republican challenger Herschel Walker, Democrats will control 51 seats to the GOP’s 49.

The race closes out a difficult midterm cycle for Republicans, who won a slim House majority but saw their hopes for Capitol Hill dominance dashed by the troubled candidacies of some Donald Trump-backed Senate nominees, including Walker.

The runoff was a final midterm test of the former president’s influence as he embarks on a third White House bid. It was also a sign that – in the wake of President Joe Biden narrowly carrying the state in 2020, combined with two Senate runoff wins that handed him a Democratic Senate in 2021 – Georgia is now definitively a purple state.

11:19 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Walker concedes Senate race, urges supporters to keep believing in America

Herschel Walker speaks during his election night party in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Herschel Walker speaks during his election night party in Atlanta on Tuesday. (Alyssa Pointer/Reuters)

Republican Herschel Walker thanked his supporters and family after networks, including CNN, projected he will lose the Georgia Senate runoff Tuesday.

He urged Georgians to "believe in America" and the Constitution. However, he didn't mention his opponent, incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, or congratulate him on his victory.

“There’s no excuses in life and I’m not going to make any excuses now," he said at his watch party. “We put up one heck of a fight," he said.

Walker urged the crowd to keep believing in the country and "always cast your vote," saying the best thing he'd ever done was run for the Senate seat because he had the chance to meet Georgians and listen to how they feel about the country and their state.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t," Walker said. "I'm never going to stop fighting for Georgia. I'm never going to stop fighting for you," he added.

11:15 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Georgia's lieutenant governor on why he cast an empty ballot: "Nobody had earned my vote"

Georgia's Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said he casted an empty ballot because neither Senate candidate earned his vote.

"I walked in the line and stood there like everybody else did and I knew exactly what I was going to do because nobody had earned my vote. I walked in, opened up the machine saw two names, neither one of them had earned my support, hit print and walked the empty ballot up to the scanner and walked out," Duncan told CNN's Jake Tapper.

He continued, "It was unfortunate, I wanted to get there. I'm a Republican. I've been a conservative my entire life. I've probably been a conservative longer than Herschel Walker or Donald Trump — combined, and so it matters to me."

"I didn't go in there lightheartedly. I didn't go in there to make a news story. I went in there to start making a difference. And be bold enough to be able to look forward instead of looking backwards. And if we are Republicans and are serious about winning the White House and winning majorities, we're going to have to look forward, instead of backward," he said.

Duncan said Republican Herschel Walker did not "earn my respect or my vote throughout the process."