By Donnell Suggs | Word In Black
(WIB) – He was previously the first Black man to represent the state of Georgia in the United States Senate when he won the seat in a runoff last year.
“Thank you Georgia. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and to God be the glory,”
Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock said those words after making his way to the stage late Tuesday evening.
“Voting is faith put into action, and Georgia, you have been praying with your lips and your legs. Your hands and our feet. Your head and your hearts.”
Warnock added, “After a hard-fought campaign you’ve got me for six more years.”
A close race at the beginning
The road to victory Tuesday night was more like a roller coaster to victory the first couple hours following the polls closing at 7 p.m.
At a quarter to 9:00 PM while supporters were dancing and mingling at the watch party for Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), which took place inside a ballroom at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, his opponent Herschel Walker was in the lead by more than 29,000 votes (1,072,820-1,043,104), according to Associated Press estimates. The fact 58% of the votes had been counted at that point did nothing to dampen the mood of Warnock supporters and that evening’s DJ who proclaimed, “We winning tonight.”
Among those supporters were his mother and siblings.
Before the night was over Warnock would take the lead for good and regain his seat. The Associated Press called the election in favor of the pastor at 10:22 p.m. A roar from the crowd would have been enough of a clue of which way the race went.
The same ballroom was filled with Warnock supporters and media from all around the country just a few weeks ago on Election Day, November 8. The room emptied after 2 a.m. with another election on the horizon.
With 67% of the vote counted Warnock jumped back in the lead by just over 16,000 votes (1,247,238-1,231,752). A gospel group took the stage to perform a number of songs. The festive mood would remain despite the vote count ebbing and flowing throughout the night. When Walker took the lead again with 71% of the votes counted (1,310,774-1,308,091) the sound of silence enveloped the room.
Both candidates got a helping hand from popular surrogates during this runoff. Former United States President Barack Obama returned to metro Atlanta last week to show his support for Warnock. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, fresh off his victory over Stacey Abrams during the primary election, began stumping for Walker a few weeks ago.
On Tuesday night award-winning director Spike Lee took time to address the crowd. DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox, another guest, said, “Y’all think that W behind me is just for Warnock, but it’s also for worshiping, winning, Warnock. It is already done.”
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who was in the building during the primary election on behalf of Warnock, told the crowd, “This is the day the Lord has made, I’m going to rejoice and be glad in it.” He added, “I know a little something about close elections and I know something about never letting them see you sweat.”
Senator Reverend Raphael G. Warnock delivers a speech after winning re-election to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, December 6, 2022 in Atlanta. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)
Early voting set the tone
A record number of Georgians continued to take advantage of the early vote. More than 1.8 million Georgians voted early, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. There are more than 7 million Georgians registered to vote and though many were expected to skip the runoff, an election just weeks from Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the turnout was strong.
With 79% of the vote counted, Warnock continued to lead with over 50.1% of those votes in his favor (1,438,242-1,430,318). With 80% of the vote in, Walker regained the lead by 8,000 votes (1,468,782-1,460,985). Minutes later with 83% of the votes accounted for, Warnock would take his largest lead of the 9:00 PM. hour, going ahead by more than 11,000 votes with still more to come in from heavily Democratic Fulton, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Clayton and Henry counties. Meanwhile, Walker dominated the smaller counties such as Hall, Telfair, Coffee, Mitchell. Those counties finished tabulating their votes rather quickly.
At 10:20 p.m. 90% of the vote was in and Warnock, regaining the lead for the majority of the later half of the evening, held onto a 8,000-vote advantage (1,644,659-1,636,197). With only major counties left to count the victory was in hand.
“I am a proud son of Savannah, Georgia,” Warnock proclaimed. “I am Georgia.”