For the second time in less than two years, a US Senate race in Georgia will go to a runoff - this time between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and his Donald Trump-backed Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
As election day neared, Georgia election officials reported heavy turnout in early voting. The December 6 vote will not determine whether US President Joe Biden's Democrats hold control of the Senate, where they have already secured enough seats to maintain their razor-thin majority.
Nevertheless, there is a lot at stake for both parties: Democrats had the narrowest possible majority for the past two years in the 50-50 Senate, where US Vice President Kamala Harris gave them the tie-breaking vote. That's led to plenty of headaches for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as two maverick members of his party - Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema - repeatedly blocked some legislative maneuvers.
A victory by Warnock would mean that Schumer could lose the support of one member of his caucus and still win floor votes. But he may have less opportunity for flashy moves, with Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.
If Walker is victorious, Schumer would be right back to where he has been the past two years, needing to cajole every single one of his senators to go along or potentially suffer a defeat.
Both Manchin and Sinema have had outsized roles in 2021 and 2022 on some of Biden's most prized initiatives, such as COVID-19 relief and legislation related to climate change and prescription drug costs.
Future of US Senate committees
Because of the 50-50 Senate divide, committee memberships are currently doled out evenly between Democrats and Republicans. These committees oversee a range of federal programs, including the military, agriculture, homeland security, transportation, healthcare and foreign affairs.
Tied votes in committees block legislation and presidential appointments, at least temporarily, from advancing to the full Senate. It takes time-consuming procedural maneuvers to break the committee deadlock so that the full chamber can pass bottled-up bills and nominations.
A Warnock win would give Democrats at least one more member than Republicans on each committee, making it harder for Republicans to stand in the way of Biden’s agenda.
That could also provide Democrats with a stronger counterbalance to House Republicans, allowing Senate committees to advance more liberal legislation and nominees, which could help energize their core voters in the 2024 elections.
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) were heavily invested in the race, trying to motivate Jewish voters to show up and vote.
“Over the past week, hundreds of RJC Victory Team volunteers have made tens of thousands of targeted grassroots Jewish voter contacts in key counties across the state of Georgia in support of Herschel Walker for US Senate,” RJC national political director Sam Markstein said.
These contacts had a particular emphasis on encouraging early voting, “utilizing the most cutting-edge data operation in Jewish politics,” he said. “As of today, 1.9 million Georgians have already cast their ballots. We know this hard-fought race is going to be close, and RJC will be working hard until the polls close on Tuesday, December 6, to turn out Jewish voters for Herschel Walker.”
JDCA CEO Halie Soifer said her organization has this year spent more than $250,000 in Georgia and reached Jewish Georgians with digital ads at least 11 million times for the general election and the runoff.
“JDCA’s grassroots volunteers have made nearly 30,000 direct voter contacts during the runoff, and JDCA’s team in Georgia knocked on hundreds of doors, with hundreds more to go on Monday and Tuesday,” she said. “In addition, JDCA PAC’s digital ads have reached all Jewish Democrats and independents, as well as Republican women, over 4.7 million times, including nearly one million times in the final weekend of the election.”
On Monday, at 5 p.m., the JDCA would hold its final phone and text bank to get out the Jewish vote in Georgia, contacting more than 25,000 voters, Soifer said.
“Jewish voters in Georgia understand that Sen. Warnock shares our values on key issues, such as defending democracy, ensuring a woman’s right to choose and combating antisemitism and hate,” she said. “They also understand that Trump’s handpicked candidate, Herschel Walker, represents the antithesis of our values.
“Jewish voters came out to support Raphael Warnock in the 2020 general election, in the 2021 runoff and in the 2022 general election, and we’re confident that Jewish voters will once again play a key role in electing Sen. Warnock.”