Millions Follow Georgia’s Most Contested Races
Sound familiar? Control of the U.S. Senate may come down to a Dec. 6 runoff between Warnock and Walker.
Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The election drama in Georgia continued overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, with state and national attention focused on the U.S. Senate race.
As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker appeared headed for a Dec. 6 runoff. Warnock had a lead of 49.4 percent to 48.5 percent, a margin of about 35,300 votes out of 3.91 million cast in that race. Georgia law requires that the winner of an election receive a majority of the votes. Libertarian Chase Oliver held 2 percent of the vote.
A runoff would mean four more weeks of intense campaigning and four more weeks of the political advertising barrage.
Georgians may feel like it’s deja vu all over again. Runoff victories in January 2021 by Warnock — who won a two-year term — and Jewish Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff gave Democrats a 50-50 split in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding a tie-breaking vote.
State election officials cautioned that reported vote totals were unofficial and incomplete. As of Noon Wednesday, all of Georgia’s 159 counties and 2,721 precincts had reported vote totals to the state, but a number of absentee and provisional ballots remained. Turnout appeared to be in the 57 percent range, with 3.92 million votes cast out of 6.95 million active voters (while another 886,000 were classified as inactive).
The gubernatorial contest was more definite. Late Tuesday, Democrat Stacey Abrams called incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to concede. Kemp held 53.5 percent of the vote, an improvement of three percentage points from his margin over Abrams in 2018. Abrams held nearly 46 percent and Libertarian Shane Hazel less than 1 percent.
Notably, as of Wednesday morning, Kemp had received some 211,000 more votes than Walker, suggesting that a significant number of Georgians may have voted for Kemp and crossed the party line to vote for Warnock.
Republicans appeared headed for victories in the races for three other major state offices.
Incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger held 53.3 percent of the vote against Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen, at 43.9 percent, and Libertarian Ted Metz, 2.7 percent. Nguyen called Raffensperger to concede late Tuesday.
Incumbent Attorney General Chris Carr received 51.9 percent of the vote in his bid for re-election. Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan, with 46.5 percent, conceded Wednesday morning. Libertarian Martin Cowen received 1.5 percent.
In the race to succeed Republican Geoff Duncan as lieutenant governor, Republican state Sen. Burt Jones had held 51.4 percent of the vote against Democrat Charlie Bailey, with 46.3 percent, and Libertarian Ryan Graham, 2.1 percent.
In the state legislature race involving two Jewish candidates, Democrat Esther Panitch held 55.7 percent of the vote against Republican Peter Korman in House district 51. District 51 takes in most of Roswell, northeast Sandy Springs, and a section of Johns Creek.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Panitch said, “The voters of District 51 chose to fight for their democracy, rejecting the far right agenda informed by unhinged conspiracies and overheated paranoia in favor of pragmatism and common sense.” She cited MARTA expansion in north Fulton County, expanding Medicaid, tightening environmental standards, and public-school funding as her priorities.
In House district 25, Republican Todd Jones, whose mother is Jewish, held 62.6 percent of the vote and appeared headed for re-election against Democrat Todd Meyer. The district is comprised of southeast Forsyth County and, after redistricting, also a piece of northern Fulton County.
In House district 121, Jewish Democrat Jeff Auerbach, a visiting assistant professor of political science at Emory University-Oxford, received 39.5 percent of the vote as he trailed Republican Marcus Wiedower.
Jews comprise an estimated 1.2 percent of Georgia’s nearly 10.8 million residents. Even by that measure, they are under-represented in the 236-seat state legislature (56 in the Senate and 180 in the House). Among current Jewish legislators, Democrat Mike Wilensky of Dunwoody opted not to seek a third term in House district 79.
As anticipated, Republicans appeared to gain a ninth seat out of 14 in the state’s congressional delegation.
In the redistricting the followed the 2020 Census, the Republican-controlled state legislature made the 6th district more Republican-friendly. Republican Mark McCormick held 62.7 percent of the vote against Democrat Bob Christian. The seat had been in Republican hands for 40 years until Democrat Lucy McBath’s 2018 victory.
Redistricting prompted McBath to jump into the more Democrat-friendly 7th district, where she defeated incumbent Democrat Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in the primary and then won 61 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Mark Gonsalves on Tuesday.
More than $20 million was raised in the 14th congressional district race, where Republican incumbent Marjorie Taylor Greene won re-election with 66.1 percent of the vote against Democrat Marcus Flowers.
Incumbents also appeared headed for re-election in other Atlanta-area congressional races: Democrat Hank Johnson in the 4th district, Democrat Nikema Williams in the 5th, Republican Barry Loudermilk in the 11th, and Democrat David Scott in the 13th.
Through the day Tuesday, Georgia officials reported relatively few problems. A handful of precincts, including in DeKalb and Cobb counties, remained open past 7 p.m. because of technical delays at the start of the day.
The mid-terms were the largest test yet of the impact of the changes to Georgia’s voting rules and procedures passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in the wake of disproven claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Slightly more than 2.5 million Georgians voted early, almost one-third of the state’s registered voters; the vast majority of those in-person, the remainder by absentee ballots. Early voting in 2022 easily surpassed that in the 2018 mid-terms. Georgia law allowed counties to count — but not report — those ballots beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday, when polls opened for day-of voting.
Editor’s Note: Earlier version of this has errors that were made during the editing process.