Warnock v Walker: Georgia's second-half winner will make history

Whoever wins will become the first black person elected from the state to a full term in the Senate

The winner of Tuesday's midterm election for one of Georgia's two seats in the US Senate will make history.

Raphael Warnock became the first black senator from Georgia when he won the second round of the 2020 presidential election that helped steer the upper house into Democratic control, propelling the party to control of the House, Senate and White House.

On December 6, voters in Georgia will vote in the second round of elections between senator Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker.

Democrats are aiming for an outright Senate majority in Georgia's runoff

Now, as Georgia heads into the final day of voting in the final round, Warnock hopes to add another distinction - winning a full six-year term in the Senate.

Getting in the way is another black man, Republican challenger Herschel Walker. And whoever wins will become the first black person elected from Georgia to a full term in the Senate.

Black voters there say the choice is clear: Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta's Martin Luther King church, echoes traditional liberal ideas about the Black experience; and Walker, a University of Georgia football icon, speaking in the language of white cultural conservatism and making fun of Warnock's interpretation of King, among others.

“Republicans seem to think they can put up Herschel Walker and confuse black people,” said Bryce Berry, president of the Georgia Young Democrats chapter and senior at Morehouse College, the historically black college where King and Warnock graduated.

Standing under the statue of King's campus, Berry continued: "We're not confused."

Other black voters raised questions about Walker's past — his false claims about his business and professional accomplishments, violence against his ex-wife, reports claiming he paid women to have abortions while now campaigning to ban the procedure — and the way he stumbled. several public policy discussions as a candidate.

Some said they believed GOP leaders were capitalizing on Walker's fame as a football star.

"How can you allow yourself to be used like that as a black person?" asked Angela Heard, a civil servant from Jonesboro. "I think you should relate better to your people than be somebody's crony."

Even some black conservatives who supported Walker lamented his candidacy as a missed opportunity to extend the Republican Party's reach to a significant section of the electorate who remain overwhelmingly Democrat.

"I don't think Herschel Walker has had enough life experience relating to the average black American to identify with him," said Avion Abreu, a 34-year-old realtor who lives in Marietta and has supported Walker since the GOP's primary campaign. .

Warnock narrowly led Walker in the November general election, but neither crossed the 50% threshold, sending the race to a second round on December 6.

AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,200 voters in the state, showed that Warnock won 90% of black voters. Walker, meanwhile, won 68% of white voters.

VoteCast data in the second round of the 2020 election, which took place in early January 2021, shows that black voters helped propel Warnock's victory over then-Senator Kelly Loeffler, who made up nearly a third of the electorate, slightly more than the black share of the 2020 general. . the electorate.

The senator's campaign has since said he must assemble a multiracial coalition, including many moderate white voters, to win re-election in a midterm election year. But it is not disputed that strong black turnout will be necessary in any case.

The Republican National Committee has responded with its own increase in outreach to black voters, opening community centers in several heavily black areas of the state.

Walker and Warnock share their stories as black men very differently.

Warnock does not frequently use phrases like "Black church" or "Black experience," but does incorporate these institutions and ideas into his argument.

Senators sometimes noted that others "liked to introduce me and say I was the first black senator from Georgia". He said Georgia voters "did a great thing" in 2021 but added that it was more about the policy outcome of the Senate Democrats.

Born in 1969, he describes himself as "the son of the civil rights movement" and speaks about how policy affected Black Georgians. Walker, in turn, often used humor to talk about his race to his often nearly all-white campaign trail audience, with jaunty lines like: "You may have noticed that I am black."

He then tampered with discussions about race and racism and recast Warnock's message.

"My opponents say America should apologize for its whiteness," Walker said in much of the campaign speech, a claim based on several of Warnock's sermons that referred to institutional racism.

Doyal Siddell, a 66-year-old black pensioner from Douglasville, said Walker's bid broke with many black voters. "Just because you come from a community doesn't mean you understand that community," he said.

At Morehouse, Berry said Walker could find some conservative, nonpartisan black people but had "never even been to our campus".

He added: "He's not running a campaign that shows he wants to represent all Georgians."

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