Georgia's Senate election is officially going to a runoff — again.
Yes, voters in the Peach State seemed almost evenly split between a Republican former football star accused by two women of leading them to get abortions and denounced by his own son, and a sitting senator who serves as pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.
Late Wednesday morning, Decision Desk HQ projected that neither the Donald Trump–endorsed Herschel Walker, who has been accused of domestic abuse and called a hypocrite for criticizing absentee fathers while himself having children who he doesn’t see, nor Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat who had been Georgia’s first Black senator, would achieve 50% of the vote, as required under state law, meaning the pair will advance to a runoff.
With more than 3.9 million ballots cast, the results showed an exceptionally close race, with Warnock leading by just 35,000 votes. Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver received 2% of the vote and will not advance to the runoff.
It's the second time Warnock has had to compete in a runoff, following the special runoff election he won in early 2021 against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler that ensured Democrats narrowly controlled Congress for the first two years of the Biden administration.
Yet again, this runoff could determine control of the Senate (depending on the outcome of races in Nevada and Arizona) — meaning we might not know the balance of power in Congress for a few more weeks.
The race for Georgia’s Senate seat had been one of the most competitive and expensive in the country this midterm cycle. With the chamber evenly split, Republicans were eager to take back the seat Warnock had won alongside fellow Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff in the 2020 cycle, when the state turned blue for the first time in decades.
Walker, who had a habit of delivering unintelligible answers on everything from gun violence to the economy to healthcare, had also found himself mired in scandal for months. Past accusations of domestic violence by Walker’s ex-wife, including him choking her and putting a gun to her head, were featured heavily in advertisements against him.
Then in June, the Daily Beast reported that Walker, who had modeled himself as a dedicated parent and a critic of fatherless Black homes, had a second son whom he had not publicly acknowledged and whose mother had sued the candidate for child support. Walker was subsequently forced to admit that in addition to his son Christian Walker, a conservative social media influencer, he had a total of three other children.
Months later, the Walker campaign was again rattled by reporting from the Daily Beast in which a woman said he impregnated her in 2009 and then paid for her abortion. The candidate initially denied knowing the woman and called the piece "flat-out lie,” but then the Daily Beast reported she was the mother of one of his other children.
As elsewhere across the nation following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion had been a major topic of debate in Georgia, which has a ban on the procedure after six weeks. Walker had campaigned as an anti-abortion evangelical who wanted a total ban on the procedure with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the pregnant person.
The abortion accusation was all too much for Christian. In a sensational turn of events, the son used his large social media following to turn on his father, calling him a deadbeat and a liar.
Christian revealed he had initially supported his father’s campaign, and even appeared alongside him occasionally, because he and his mother had been assured that Herschel would own up to past misdeeds and take accountability.
"He didn't do any of that," Christian said in one video posted to Twitter. "Everything's been a lie. Everything's been downplayed. Everything's been cutting corners."
"Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past. Every single one. He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all of his dirty laundry in public, while simultaneously lying about it," Christian tweeted. "I’m done.”
One unnamed Republican official allied with Walker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Christian’s comments were so damaging that he would be “solely to blame if Herschel loses the race.”
Weeks later, a second woman said she was so disgusted by Walker’s denials that she felt compelled to reveal that she, too, had had an abortion at his urging when they were in a relationship in the 1990s.
The woman, who identified herself only as Jane Doe, said she had felt “pressured” by Walker to undergo the procedure, stating that he drove her to a clinic and waited for her after she had initially felt she couldn’t go through with it. "I was devastated because I felt that I had been pressured into having an abortion," the woman said.
Yet polls still showed a narrow race between Walker and his Democratic opponent.
Warnock had mostly refused to engage with Walker’s many scandals, preferring to let voters draw their own conclusions.
At the only debate between the two men, Walker mostly evaded interrogation about the accusations after simply shrugging them off in Trumpian fashion as lies and political plots against him. (In another bizarre moment during the debate, he waved an honorary sheriff’s badge that had been given to him for community service work after being grilled on why he had said he was a member of law enforcement.)
Prioritizing victory at all costs, top Republicans and Christian leaders opted not to abandon Walker over the abortion scandals. “I don't care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles,” said Dana Loesch, a former spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. “I want control of the Senate.”