Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock took to the stage at a victory rally in Atlanta, Georgia, to cheers of "six more years" after beating his Republican challenger, football star Herschel Walker, in a hard-fought Senate runoff election.
The first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, who broke the color barrier for one of the original 13 states with a special election victory in January 2021, almost 245 years after the nation’s founding, added another distinction by winning a full-six-term in Tuesday's runoff.
“I am Georgia,” the senator said. “I am an example and an iteration of its history, of its peril and promise, of the brutality and the possibilities. But because this is America, because we always have a path to make our country greater against unspeakable odds, here we stand together.”
Warnock praised voters in the state for rising above the political vitriol of "folks trying to divide our country," and vowed to work for all Georgians, "whether you voted for me or not."
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"The people once again rose up in a multiracial, multireligious coalition of the conscience," he said. "You endured the rain, you endured the long lines, and you voted, and you did it because you believe, as I do, that democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea. This notion that each of us has within us a spark of the divine, that we were created in 'imago Dei' — in the image of God."
Warnock also thanked his mother, who he noted "grew up in the 1950s 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 States senator.”
Tuesday's outcome was another blow to a Republican candidate backed by former President Donald Trump, who'd lent his support to Walker. The former University of Georgia football and NFL star was unable to overcome damaging allegations, including claims that he paid for two former girlfriends’ abortions despite supporting a national ban on the procedure.
With Warnock’s second runoff victory in as many years, Democrats will have a 51-49 Senate majority, gaining a seat from the current 50-50 split with John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania. There will be divided government, however, with Republicans having narrowly flipped House control.
In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast, but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The senator appeared to be headed for a wider final margin in Tuesday's runoff.
“The numbers look like they’re not going to add up,” Walker told supporters late Tuesday, conceding the race. “There’s no excuses in life, and I’m not going to make any excuses now because we put up one heck of a fight.”
He delivered remarks at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta, thanking his supporters and family and calling the run for a senate seat, "the best thing I've ever done in my whole entire life."
"The reason I'm going to say that is [that] I got a chance to meet all you and hear what you guys feel about this country," Walker said. "And I got a chance to -- for you guys to tell me what you do feel about this country. I got a chance to go into your home, got a chance that you invested in Herschel Walker, and I thank you, and I thank you so much."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.