For the second time in less than two years, there will be a runoff in a US Senate race in Georgia.
Neither Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, nor his Republican challenger Herschel Walker broke the 50 percent hurdle needed for an outright victory on Tuesday. Instead, the race will be decided in a runoff on December 6th.
That means a few weeks of bonus campaigns that can determine control of the Senate. This is how it will work.
What is a runoff?
A runoff is essentially a rematch held when none of the original candidates meet the criteria for a win.
According to Georgian law, candidates must get a majority of votes to win an election. With more than 95 percent of ballots being counted Thursday morning, none of the frontrunners had a way to win a majority this time around.
Mr Warnock had 49.4 per cent of the vote versus Mr Walker’s 48.5 per cent, a difference of about 35,000 votes. Libertarian nominee Chase Oliver, who was third, had about 2 percent, about 81,000 votes.
How long will the process take?
Two years ago, Georgia was the site of two Senate runoff elections that were not decided until January 2021. A new election law shortened the runoff to four weeks, cutting time for campaigns to mobilize voters and coordinate events through Thanksgiving and the first few weeks of the holiday season.
The election itself will take place on Tuesday, December 6, with early voting beginning on November 28, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
That means the onslaught of political ads Georgia voters have been experiencing won’t end for another couple of weeks, and high-profile figures from both parties are sure to be in attendance. The campaigns will go into overtime to regain voters.
The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of Senate Democrats, will spend $7 million to mobilize voters in Georgia’s runoff, the organization announced Thursday, adding to what is already the most expensive Senate contest of the midterm election.
What do I need to know about the candidates?
A political newcomer with considerable personal baggage, Mr Walker has waged a hyper-conservative campaign with thinly outlined political agendas and strong appeals to social and cultural issues. He is best known as a running back in Georgia who won the Heisman Trophy and later found fame in the NFL.
In addition to serving in the Senate, Mr. Warnock is senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which was once led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He has been a strong advocate for his work over the past two years of the Senate, emphasizing legislation he passed alongside Republican senators and his party’s political victories for low-income Georgians and those over 65.
Both won their primaries easily.
Why does Georgia have a deadline law?
Georgia’s runoff law was created in the 1960s to preserve white political power in a majority-white state and reduce the influence of black politicians, who reportedly could more easily win in a multi-candidate race by a majority of the vote the US Department of the Interior.
In 2020, races for the country’s two Senate seats ended in runoff elections. Mr. Warnock won his race, a special election after Senator Johnny Isakson resigned, and Jon Ossoff, another Democrat, won the other. Previously, Democrats had won just one in seven statewide runoffs in general or special elections since the 1990s, according to Inside Elections, a nonpartisan political newsletter.
Why is December runoff important?
In 2021, Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff’s runoff victories reshaped Congress by helping Democrats win the slimmest majority in the Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris is the tiebreaker. Depending on the outcome of the Nevada and Arizona races – which may not be clear for weeks – the result in Georgia could once again determine which party controls the chamber.
With some elections in Congress still undecided, Republicans are closing in on a narrow majority in the House of Representatives. Even if Democrats hold the Senate, a Republican-controlled House of Representatives would jeopardize President Biden’s ambitious legislative agenda and herald a new era of conflict.