The United States Senate elections could soon be the third largest industry in the state of Georgia. Sure, financial and professional services are the absolute frontrunners, and Coke sells 1.9 billion servings every day. True, some of the tens of millions of dollars spent bombarding the state with TV and digital advertising end up in the pockets of locals, but the bulk of that goes to out-of-town consultants. But now the runoff between the incumbent Democrats is running Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker will be the sixth Georgia Senate vote in two years — not including party primaries. Warnock has essentially campaigned for three years in a row.
What actually triggers the non-stop cycle of head-to-head competition is the fact that Georgia has become a microcosm of political polarization that stretches across the country. Data for Georgia does not match US demographics: for example, the state has a far higher percentage of black residents (33%) than the country as a whole (13%). But in its mix of older, rural, less educated Republican regions and younger, higher-educated, urban and suburban Democratic areas, the state’s policies embody the larger division. And Walker’s ever-accumulating baggage—Chinese air! Secret Children! vampires! — is a test of how much national competitions are about partisanship and almost nothing else. “Georgia has slowly moved away from being a red state since the 1980s,” he says MikeMadrid. The Republican political strategist spent much of 2020 studying Georgia in his work with the Lincoln Project and trying to help turn it around (successfully). donald trump to Joe Biden. “Its suburbs are some of the most diverse in the country — black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander — and college-educated white suburbanites are much more open to voting across party lines. And then there’s the Marjorie Taylor Greene Element, deep red areas. Georgia is America – only more.”
The rapid series of close fighting has turned Georgia into a kind of political laboratory. “Whether it was Nevada or Michigan or Pennsylvania or an Ohio convention, the tactics that emerged from the last Georgia runoff were critical and helpful and helped ensure we had a highly productive midterm election,” he says David Leonard, a co-founder of Relentless, a company that essentially paid people to talk politics with their friends and worked to help Democrat Jon Osoff Win a Georgia Senate runoff in 2021. Leonard and her company are back to work for Warnock in Georgia. “We were able to experiment in Georgia, and that made relational organization work at scale.”
The current Warnock-Walker runoff is unique in some respects: it is a by-product of rules dating back to 19th-century racial segregation attempts to dilute black voting. But the contest is emblematic of broader modern Republican attempts being made across the country to quash the vote. After Warnock was narrowly defeated Kelly Loeffler in a nine-week runoff campaign that ended January 6, 2021, governor of Georgia Brian Kemp shortened the campaign period to four weeks, excluding Thanksgiving, and essentially eliminated the ability to register new voters during that period. Then state officials tried to reduce the number of early voting dates; Democrats won a court challenge that blocked that effort. “The Republicans have armed the administrative process,” he says La Tosha Brown, a co-founder of the Atlanta-based group Black Voters Matter. “That’s what concerns me.”
Kemp is a factor in other ways. At the parliamentary elections about 200,000 Georgians share their ticket, supports Kemp but not Walker. Keeping those voters away from Walker is crucial for Warnock in the runoff. But the governor, who kept his distance from Walker in the run-up to November, has stumbled for the former soccer star this time. And Kemp, who lost to win re-election for a second term Stacey Abrams Also this month, he gave his voter records and campaign staff to Walker’s runoff.
Warnock’s campaign not only fights Walker, but voter fatigue and confusion. “When we knock on doors, voters say ‘I’ve already voted’, which means two weeks ago in the general election,” she says Yadira Sanchez, the chief executive of Poder Latinx, a bipartisan group specializing in Latino voter turnout that plans to visit 20,000 homes ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff. “That just requires us to delve deeper into the runoff process and what’s at stake in this election.”
Latino and black turnout was down slightly in the Georgia general election, a worrying sign for Warnock’s team in the runoff. Another strain on voter motivation is that of the Democrats Catherine Cortez MastoGeorgia’s re-election in Nevada has already secured a Senate majority — unlike 2020, when the margin depended on Georgia runoff results. All of this is why Warnock’s campaign is looking for a perverted push from Trump. Warnock’s campaign plummeted after the former president announced he would run again in 2024 30-second TV commercial consists almost entirely of quotes praising Trump Walker. “Do we think Trump’s involvement in Georgia will help us?” says a Warnock staffer. “Well, look at it another way: Walker didn’t use those clips of Trump talking about him. What does that tell you?” One thing it tells us is that the Georgia runoff, like the hundreds of other midterms already completed elsewhere, will be part of an ongoing, indirect referendum on Trump.