Early voting begins in some Georgia counties as Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker sprint to December 6 runoff



CNN

A week-long early voting period begins Saturday in some Georgia counties as Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker enter the post-Thanksgiving sprint for a Dec. 6 runoff.

Unlike the 2021 runoff, where control of the Senate is not on the line, Democrats have already won 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris is the party’s balance vote.

But the stakes remain high: A Warnock victory would give Democrats an outright majority, without requiring the current power-sharing deal. Democrats hold majorities in committees, allowing them to easily advance President Joe Biden’s nominees.

The Georgia Supreme Court handed Warnock a victory Wednesday, allowing counties to offer early voting on Saturday. Democrats said they expected that in 22 counties, some of them in densely populated areas around Atlanta, including DeKalb and Fulton, as well as Chatham County in Savannah.

The ruling follows a legal battle over Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s interpretation of the state’s 2021 voting law. He said the new law restricted weekend voting to immediately after the holidays.

That 2021 law cut the runoff period in half to four weeks and limited the early voting window to at least five days, rather than the 16 days that have been in place when Democrats have won two Senate runoffs in the state. January 2021.

Twenty-two of the state’s 159 counties allowed voters to vote on Saturday.

At a polling station in Atlanta, Boston College student Emma Demilio said she would not have been able to vote in person if early voting sites had not opened.

“This is the only time I was able to vote in Georgia. I’m leaving tomorrow, so I’m very happy to be able to get it in,” he said, possibly trying to get an absentee vote.

Warnock continues to beat Walker as they enter the final contest.

Warnock raised nearly $52.2 million between Oct. 20 and Nov. 16, which included the end of the general election and roughly the first week of the runoff. Walker raised $20.9 million during that time, according to his campaign’s filings with the Federal Election Commission. Warnock finished the season with more than $29.7 million in the bank, more than three times the $9.8 million left in his opponent’s coffers.

Warnock to bring top Democratic representative: Former President Barack Obama will travel to Atlanta on Thursday for a rally ahead of the last day of early voting.

So far, Obama is the only president, former or current, to go to Georgia before the runoff.

Neither President Joe Biden, whose Walker campaign tried to retain Warnock, nor former President Donald Trump, who was in office when Republicans lost the Senate twice two years ago, have not scheduled trips to the state. On Saturday, Warnock joined Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) at a rally in Sandy Springs, outside Atlanta.

Trump’s allies, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were out in force for Walker, the former president did not campaign with a candidate he hired.

Meanwhile, other Republicans have rallied around Walker, with the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that, along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has poured more than $10 million into the race since the general election.

In addition to the new influx of outside spending, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who was up for re-election earlier this month, met with Walker for the first time in the fall after heavily arming the former football player.

Kemp defeated a Trump-backed primary challenger in May and then outspent Walker by more than 200,000 votes in the general election, a sign of his crossover appeal to moderate Democrats and a sign of Walker’s difficulty consolidating Republicans.

Still, Democrats said they doubted Kemp could save Walker in a runoff where he was the only Republican on the ballot.

“There are a lot of people who voted for Raphael Warnock and Brian Kemp,” said Jason Carter, the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

He called Warnock a “unique figure” and noted that he “got more votes than Herschel Walker and more votes than any other Democrat.”

“People appreciate it. And they think it’s Raphael Warnock first and his political party second and stuff,” Carter said.

A new potential flashpoint emerged in the second round of the election on Wednesday. In a separate lawsuit, the Georgia Supreme Court reinstated the state’s six-week abortion ban.

It was a political victory for Republicans who introduced the ban and defended it in court, but it could come at a political cost, fueling a backlash over the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, emboldening Democrats and galvanizing moderate voters. to their approval of the party’s surprisingly strong showing in this year’s midterm elections.

In the midterms, according to a CNN exit poll, 28% of Georgia voters said abortion was the most important issue to them — just behind 37% adjusted for inflation.

Warnock was backed by 77% of those who said abortion was the most important issue, compared to 21% who voted for Walker – inflation back, an issue that gave Walker a 45 percentage point advantage.

Fifty-three percent of Georgia voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 75 percent supported Warnock. Of the 43% who said it should be illegal in all or most cases, 87% supported Walker.

So far, both parties have spent more than $40 million on TV ads in the runoff. Democratic groups spent nearly $25 million, while GOP groups spent about $16 million, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact.

In an effort to unite the Republican factions, Walker’s super PAC is sending out letters urging Kemp’s support and trying to connect Warnock with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. “You stopped Stacey. Now stop Warnock,” they read.

“Who do you want to fight for in the United States Senate? Do you want a guy who represents our values, like Herschel Walker, or a guy who is 96% with Joe Biden?” Kemp said, borrowing a familiar attack from Walker, at a rally in Cobb County last weekend. .

Kemp also repeats the attack line in a new TV commercial by SLF. The governor and McConnell’s caucuses are also teaming up for a ballot effort. SLF is boosting Kemp’s state operation to help Walker with a $2 million cash injection.

Warnock’s campaign is also trying to win over Republicans who actually chose Kemp over Trump.

A new Warnock campaign ad features a woman who says she voted for Kemp this year and describes herself as a lifelong Republican, but says she won’t support Walker in a runoff because of his “lack of character.”

Warnock also campaigned on what should be Walker’s safest territory: his hometown. At the event in Wrightsville, where Walker played high school football, Warnock asked voters to separate the sports hero from the political candidate.

“I saw what your beloved son did on the football field. I’m not against giving credit where credit is due. That brother might surprise you on that football field. He graduated from Georgia State University. And he deserves credit for that,” Warnock said. “But tonight we’re on a different field.”

Meanwhile, the Republican has faced some backlash over her ad — which, along with University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who has previously come out with Walker and transgender swimmer Leah Thomas, has become the focus of controversy over the inclusion of trans women. has come under frequent attack in sports and in the conservative media.

“For more than ten years, I have worked so hard. Four o’clock practice to be the best. But in my senior year, I had to compete with a biological male,” Gaines says in the ad.

The story comes after a gunman targeted the LGBTQ community at a gay club in Colorado. One of the five deaths was a trans man.

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