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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8:04 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

In pictures: Election Day in Georgia

From CNN Digital's Photo Team

A voter checks in at a polling location in Atlanta on Tuesday.
A voter checks in at a polling location in Atlanta on Tuesday. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

More than one million people cast their ballots Tuesday in Georgia’s runoff election, according to the state's secretary of state, and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker were out making their final pitches as they urged people to vote.

Here are some scenes from Election Day:

An election worker replaces a voting sticker at a polling location in Atlanta.
An election worker replaces a voting sticker at a polling location in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Republican candidate Herschel Walker poses with a supporter Tuesday at the Marietta Diner in Marietta, Georgia.
Republican candidate Herschel Walker poses with a supporter Tuesday at the Marietta Diner in Marietta, Georgia. (Alyssa Pointer/Reuters)

Voters cast their ballots in Atlanta.
Voters cast their ballots in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

A voter casts a ballot in Atlanta.
A voter casts a ballot in Atlanta. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

US Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters in Norcross, Georgia, on Tuesday.
US Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters in Norcross, Georgia, on Tuesday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

People wait in line to cast their ballot in Atlanta.
People wait in line to cast their ballot in Atlanta. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Check out more photos from this year’s midterm elections.

8:11 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Top Georgia GOP official: "We've got to get over these suspicions of early voting"

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Republican candidate Herschel Walker is poised to see a strong showing in the Election Day vote — a sentiment that even Georgia Democrats don’t quarrel with — but Republicans know that won’t be enough to defeat Sen. Raphael Warnock.

“If Republicans want to start winning here, we’ve got to get over these suspicions of early voting,” a top Georgia GOP official tells CNN tonight. 

Going into Election Day, nearly 1.9 million Georgians had already cast early or absentee ballots, which gave Warnock a considerable head start in his quest to win reelection.

As supporters start filing into the Walker campaign event tonight at the College Football Hall of Fame, there is cautious optimism among Republicans, but the robust confidence from Election Night in November is gone.

Inside the Walker campaign’s boiler room, strategists are pouring over the returns from rural Georgia counties, with one campaign official telling CNN: “Turnout is high enough to make it a race.”

But those words are key: "Make it a race" does not guarantee a victory, but campaign strategists say they still see a path to victory, no thanks to skepticism about early voting.

8:02 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Judge extends voting by 45 minutes in one precinct in Henry County

From CNN’s Fredreka Schouten

A judge extended voting by 45 minutes Tuesday evening in a single precinct in Henry County, southeast of Atlanta. 

The voting continued until 7:45 p.m. ET at the precinct at Salem Baptist at North McDonough, according to Henry County’s election office.

Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, told CNN her group sought the extension after problems with the poll books and other machines delayed voting Tuesday morning.

She said her group was able to document that voters did not receive emergency ballots until 45 minutes had elapsed.

9:35 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Fulton County officials are uploading results of more than 184,000 advanced voting ballots 

From CNN's Christina Maxouris and Dianne Gallagher

Elction officials in Fulton County began to upload the results of more than 184,000 advanced voting ballots shortly after 7 p.m. ET when the polls closed, Interim Director of Elections Nadine Williams said Tuesday. 

The results of another 14,000 absentee ballots from all 249 Election Day sites will be uploaded before midnight, Williams added. Counties can now process early votes earlier, which is leading to a smoother process at the counting center than some years past.

Designated ballot transporters will soon begin arriving at the Fulton County Elections center, driving the secured ballots to the location, where they will be met by security, who will help them bring the ballots into the building.

“It was a great day… no wait times,” she said. 

Williams estimated the county, Georgia’s largest by population, saw “well over” 70,000 voters on Tuesday.

7:13 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

"Let's be patient": It will take time to determine who has the edge, CNN's John King says

(CNN)
(CNN)

As results start to roll in from Georgia’s runoff election, it will take time to see how tight the margin is between the two candidates, CNN's chief national correspondent John King cautioned Tuesday.

Most counties have already started counting early votes. Those will be the ones that are released after polls close at 7 p.m. ET.

This means Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock will likely open up an early lead over his Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Typically, early votes tend to skew more Democratic, King explained.

“Then we have to be patient and watch as the Election Day vote gets counted,” King said, adding, “Republicans are counting on the Election Day vote.”

The Georgia Senate race saw a similar pattern in November, King said — Warnock came out with an early lead when the first results were reported.

By 8 p.m. ET in the general election, Warnock was leading Walker by more than 140,000 votes, but as in-person votes were counted, Walker took the lead an hour later. Since Georgia is a competitive state, as votes came in, who was leading the race changed frequently, King said.

“Early on, you see a lot of blue on the map. If you're in the Warnock campaign that's great, that means you turned out your early vote and are building a lead,” King said.

“Let’s be patient, let's watch through the night — it will likely be like it was a month ago,” King added.

7:00 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

It's 7 p.m. ET, and polls are closing in Georgia. Here are key things to know about the Senate runoff race

From CNN's Melissa Holzberg DePalo and Ethan Cohen

US Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, and Republican challenger Herschel Walker
US Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, and Republican challenger Herschel Walker (Getty Images)

It's 7 p.m. ET, and polls are closing across Georgia in the high-stakes Senate runoff election.

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker are facing each other again after neither received more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 8 general election. Warnock led that race with 49.4% of the vote, Walker carried 48.5% of the vote and Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver won 2.1%.

This election is Warnock’s fourth campaign in two years. In 2020, he ran against appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler to finish former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. That race also went to a runoff that Warnock won in January 2021. Warnock and Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff’s wins in that election gave Democrats control of the Senate.

This time around, the stakes aren’t quite as high — but still significant. Democrats already control the Senate with 50 senators plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, but a victory in Georgia would give the party an outright majority.

While Donald Trump’s endorsement helped Walker secure the nomination, the former president mostly stayed on the sidelines throughout the runoff campaign amid concerns he could turn off independents and suburban women, critical voting blocs in the state. Trump did hold a tele-rally for Walker on Monday. Former President Barack Obama, on the other hand, traveled to Georgia to stump for Warnock and cut a new ad for him.

Walker's campaign has faced several controversies. In November, CNN’s KFile reported that Walker is getting a homestead tax exemption in Texas this year – something that is supposed to apply to primary residences. Walker registered to vote in Georgia in 2021 and lived in Texas for 20 years. The report has resurfaced questions about Walker’s residency that have dogged him throughout the campaign.

7:10 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Democrats are confident in their strategy to reach out to voters that supported Kemp and Warnock

From CNN's Eva McKend

As Georgia Democrats worked to reelect Sen. Raphael Warnock in the runoff, they employed a strategy to make the case to swing voters that may have been uncomfortable with Warnock's Republican opponent Herschel Walker.

Democrats put the voters that supported both Gov. Brian Kemp and Sen. Warnock at the forefront during the runoff in a direct appeal to swing voters and independents.

That approach will pay off, according to Sarah Riggs Amico, a campaign surrogate for Warnock, who lost a bid for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2018, because she argues Warnock simultaneously never compromised core Democratic values. 

“Even Republicans understand Herschel Walker is summarily unfit and unqualified to serve in the US Senate. Sen. Warnock is doing what a good representative of our state does, he's reaching out to everybody everywhere and taking no one and no vote for granted,” Amico said, adding Warnock has a “unique appeal” to voters across the political spectrum and that the strategy did not alienate progressives in the state. 
6:57 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Here's why a win in Georgia is key for Trump's 2024 election bid

From CNN's Kristen Holmes

Former President Donald Trump leaves the stage after speaking at his Mar-a-Lago resort last month.
Former President Donald Trump leaves the stage after speaking at his Mar-a-Lago resort last month. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump and his team are looking for a win in Georgia's Senate race to inject energy and momentum into Trump’s so-far uninspired campaign.

The former president really needs Herschel Walker to win — following a midterm where Trump’s endorsed candidates mostly either flopped or fizzled, and a lackluster announcement for a third Presidential bid.

Sources close to Trump also believe that a Walker victory could slow the GOP shift away from the former president as more Republicans say it is time to move on from Trump. 

And those in Trump’s orbit are keenly aware that a loss will be blamed squarely on the former president, who didn’t just endorse Walker, but recruited the scandal plagued former football star to run for the Senate.

Republicans urged Trump not to announce his 2024 presidential run until after the Dec. 6 runoff, and warned the former president that it would energize Democratic voters and could help boost Warnock’s fundraising. Trump ignored the request.

During the general election Trump’s super PAC poured $3.6 million into TV ads supporting Walker. Despite the importance of this race, Trump did not visit the state before the runoff as both Walker and Trump aides believed the risk was too high that an appearance by Trump would not help with moderate Republicans and drive out Democratic voters. Instead, Trump did a tele-rally on the eve of the election, out of public view.  

6:48 p.m. ET, December 6, 2022

Biden will be briefed soon by political team on runoff election as he wraps up Arizona trip

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

President Joe Biden boards Air Force One in Glendale, Arizona, on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden boards Air Force One in Glendale, Arizona, on Tuesday. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden will soon be briefed on the latest in the Georgia Senate runoff by his political team as he wraps up his final meetings in Arizona. Those briefings will continue throughout his flight tonight back to Washington, DC, with Biden expected to monitor results by television as well. 

But the travel itself is instructive about how Biden and his team view this moment. He wasn’t invited to campaign for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock during the runoff in a repeat of the lead up to the midterm elections. 

Officials note that was actually the case in Arizona as well, where Democrats quietly made clear to White House officials a Biden visit before Election Day wouldn’t be helpful. But those same Democrats overperformed statewide races, winning the governor’s race and holding onto a Senate seat. 

Biden visited Michigan last week, a state he only visited once before the midterms, but where Democrats also overperformed across that state — including huge wins in the governor’s race and a victory in the secretary of state battle. 

These are official, not political trips, designed to tout agenda wins that turned into major private sector investment in each state. But implicit in each visit is a clear nod Democratic midterm performance – and reality that both states were critical to Biden’s 2020 election victory. 

As Biden weighs his own reelection bid, these states will be critical again in 2024 — as well as Georgia.

Asked if a Warnock win would mean a Biden visit to the state would soon follow, one Democratic official responded with two words: “Stay tuned.”