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Georgia Senate runoff live updates: Warnock and Walker face off again

(ATLANTA) — Georgia’s Senate runoff between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker comes to a close on Tuesday after more than a year of campaigning, several controversies and record-breaking turnout.

While the race won’t determine control of the Senate, it could increase Democrats’ power in the chamber — where Vice President Kamala Harris currently has to break ties — or see the Republicans win a 50th seat and create procedural obstacles.

Walker, a businessman and local football legend, and Warnock, a noted reverend in Atlanta, first faced off in November’s general election. But neither got 50% of the vote as required by state law, leading to Tuesday’s runoff after about a week of early voting.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 06, 5:46 PM EST
Look at Walker’s longtime relationship with Trump

Though former President Donald Trump has steered clear of Georgia during Walker’s runoff campaign, Trump has been a prominent backer of the candidate.

Their decades-long relationship traces back to when Walker was a pro football player; in 1983, the Heisman Trophy winner joined the New Jersey Generals in the now-defunct United States Football League. The team was sold to Trump after the 1983 season. Herschel was signed by the Cowboys in 1986, the same year the United States Football League folded.

In 2009, Walker was a contestant on Trump’s reality TV show “The Celebrity Apprentice,” in a season won by Joan Rivers.

During his presidency, Trump appointed Walker to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition in 2018, and then as the council’s co-chair in 2020. The Biden administration requested that Walker resign from the two-year position earlier this year due to an administration policy barring federal candidates from serving on presidential boards.

Walker entered the Republican primary in the Georgia Senate race in August 2021 at the urging of Trump, whose support largely cleared the field, and Trump prominently supported him throughout the race.

Trump backed Walker after the anti-abortion candidate denied an ex-girlfriend’s claim that he paid for her to have an abortion in 2009.

In announcing his third bid for the White House last month, Trump urged voters in Georgia to support Walker, who also spoke in support of Trump at the 2020 Republican National Committee.

Dec 06, 4:42 PM EST
More than 800,000 Georgians have cast their votes

Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon that Election Day turnout had exceeded 800,000 votes so far.

Sterling said he anticipated between 1.1 million and 1.3 million people would vote on Tuesday. Polls close at 7 p.m. ET.

“We walked in thinking we’d at least go over 1 million,” Sterling said. “We’re guaranteed to go over 1.1 million, probably approaching 1.2 million.”

Dec 06, 4:25 PM EST
Georgians discuss their votes for and against Walker on Election Day

ABC News on Tuesday spoke to Kirk Watkins, a voter in Buckhead, an upscale neighborhood in Atlanta where Republican Herschel Walker underperformed Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in November. Watkins said he split his ticket during the general election to cast his ballot for Kemp but also for Warnock instead of Walker.

“He’s a joke,” Watkins said of why he didn’t support Walker. “Well, he’s yet to make a statement that makes any sense. He has no policies and he’s hand-selected by Trump for no particular reason. Just because.”

Kemp earned his support because he “did the right thing” by standing up to Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, Watkins said.

Other Republican voters said on Election Day they were rallying behind Walker but weren’t too confident he can seal the deal. Some worried a rainy, cold day could hurt GOP turnout.

Voter Danny Alea in Marietta, part of Cobb County in metro Atlanta where Walker also underperformed Kemp, said he’s voting for Walker only because he is the only option against Warnock.

“Well, he’s the only Republican choice left standing and there’s just no way I can vote for Warnock,” Alea said. He called his vote for Walker an “easy choice” and insisted the country is going “backwards” under Democrats.

-ABC News’ Rachel Scott

Dec 06, 4:06 PM EST
Georgia official predicts Election Day turnout to exceed 1 million

Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, predicted on social media that Election Day turnout will “exceed 1 million.”

That would be on top of the nearly 1.9 million people who’ve already voted early or cast an absentee ballot. Georgia shattered records for early voting turnout in the runoff between Warnock and Walker.

As of Tuesday morning, Sterling wrote on Twitter that 250,000 people had already gone to the polls to vote that day. Polls close at 7 p.m. ET.

Dec 06, 4:05 PM EST
Warnock: ‘We’re leaving it all on the field’

At an Election Day canvass launch in the metro Atlanta suburb Norcross, Sen. Warnock told supporters not to get deterred by the light rain and to show up big at the polls.

“We’re not leaving anything to chance which is why we’re standing out here getting sprinkled and baptized. We’re leaving it all on the field. But I got a feeling that the people of Georgia are gonna get this right and we’re gonna get this done one more time,” Warnock said to cheers.

Still, he told supporters not to “rest on our laurels,” arguing there was still a pathway to victory for Walker.

“More of our voters tend to vote during the early period. And more of [Walker’s] voters tend to vote on Election Day. So if you haven’t voted, by all means vote,” Warnock said. “And if you’ve already voted, your job still isn’t done until everybody in your circle [votes].”

Warnock said he wasn’t thinking about the Senate majority heading into election night.

“I know folks are doing all the other calculations and that’s fine. But this really is about who’s going to represent Georgia,” he said.

Asked about his reaction to Walker’s comments that he will “put my character up against Raphael Warnock any day,” Warnock told ABC News, “My opponent says many things. You can’t believe any of it.”

Dec 06, 2:30 PM EST
Top official says Election Day ‘running smoothly,’ turnout ‘steady’

A top election official in Georgia’s secretary of state’s office, Gabriel Sterling, said Tuesday on social media that Election Day voting was “running smoothly” and that, as of around noon local time, the average wait to vote statewide was down to one minute.

Sterling, the deputy interim secretary of state, wrote on Twitter that his office estimated more than 250,000 Georgians had cast their ballots that morning, calling the turnout “steady.”

On Friday alone, the last day of early voting for the Senate runoff, 352,953 people cast ballots, according to state elections data — bringing the total number of early votes, either in person or absentee, to more than 1.8 million — shattering early in-person voting records for the state.

Republicans are hoping for a high Election Day turnout as data indicates that more Democrats got out the vote early.

-ABC News’ Libby Cathey

Dec 06, 12:31 PM EST
Walker dodges Warnock’s attacks on his character

ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott asked Herschel Walker on Election Day about his rival questioning his character and competence — and if he was confident that he could flip Sen. Raphael Warnock’s seat.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Walker said, repeating a version anytime he was presented with his opponent’s name. “We’re going out to win this election. So this election, I’m telling people to get out to vote.”

“Hershel Walker is going to be your senator, and we’re going to get things changed,” Walker added.

When pressed further, Walker said, “The reason I’m not going to address that is because it doesn’t need to be addressed … Right now, I’ll put my character against Raphael Warnock any day. Right now, I’ve done a lot of things.”

Walker’s strategy in the final stretch has been to link Warnock to President Joe Biden, labeling him a “rubber stamp” for Biden’s agenda, a characterization Warnock has rejected.

“I am the 18th most bipartisan senator in the Senate. Period,” Warnock told Scott on Monday. “Now I know that’s an inconvenient fact for Mr. Walker. We also know that he’s allergic to facts, even the facts about his own life.”

-ABC News’ Libby Cathey

Dec 06, 12:17 PM EST
Who is Raphael Warnock?

Warnock is running in his fourth election in under two years as he fights for a full six-year term representing the battleground state.

Warnock is currently at the helm of as Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which was famously led by Martin Luther King Jr. He has campaigned on a personal history steeped in religion and social justice.

He has also touted his current work during his short time in Congress, including some bipartisan priorities.

“I’m not a senator who used to be a pastor. You might as well know that you sent a pastor to the Senate,” Warnock told canvassers in October.

In 2020, Warnock was accused by then-wife Ouleye of running over her foot amid their divorce proceedings.

Neither police nor medical professionals were able to find evidence to show that she was injured, and Warnock was not charged with any crimes. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of the claim: “It didn’t happen.”

Dec 06, 12:16 PM EST
Who is Herschel Walker?

Walker hopes to do what former Sen. Kelly Loeffler could not and defeat Warnock in a runoff election in Georgia.

Walker is a football legend in the state known for scoring touchdowns in the University of Georgia’s 1980 championship season.

Now a businessman, he entered the Senate primary in August 2021 at the urging of former President Donald Trump, a longtime friend, whose swift support largely cleared the field.

“I’m here to win the seat for the Georgia people because the Georgia people need a winner,” he said in October.

Both the November election and the runoff have seen Walker deny a series of allegations from women, including that he paid for their abortions, which he has said is not true. He is running as a staunchly anti-abortion candidate.

During the campaign, Walker’s past also received new scrutiny, such as resurfaced reports about violence in his first marriage — which he didn’t contest — amid what he said was a struggle with dissociative identity disorder.

Dec 06, 12:16 PM EST
Election Day is here for midterm’s final battle

In Georgia, the stage is set for the final Senate battle of the midterm election as voters head back to the polls on Tuesday for the runoff election between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

In November’s general election, Warnock finished less than 1% ahead of Walker, falling just short of the 50% threshold required by state law, triggering a four-week runoff election that included at least five days of mandatory early voting last week.

Georgia is no stranger to runoff elections and this is the third time voters cast ballots in a Senate runoff election in less than two years. But the dynamics have shifted since the 2020 campaign that got Warnock elected. The state legislature passed a sweeping voting law last year that, among other changes, shortened the runoff period from nine weeks to four, causing an all-out sprint to the finish line for both candidates.

On Monday, Walker and Warnock made their closing pitches to voters in multiple campaign stops on the eve of Election Day.

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