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Raphael Warnock Defeats Herschel Walker for Georgia U.S. Senate Seat

Raphael Warnock
Photo by Michael Scott Milner for Shutterstock

An LGBTQ+ ally has prevailed over a homophobic, transphobic challenger.


Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia has won reelection.

Warnock, who first won the office two years ago in a special election to fill the last two years of Johnny Isakson's term, beat Republican challenger Herschel Warnock in a runoff Tuesday. Warnock was declared the winner by NBC News about 10:30 p.m. local time, with 50.6 percent of the vote to Walker's 49.4 percent. (The margin has been widening since then.) Warnock will now serve a full six-year term.

Warnock and Walker were forced into the runoff because neither of them won more than 50 percent of the vote November 8, as required by Georgia law.

Warnock is an LGBTQ+ ally, while Walker's campaign has been marked by anti-LGBTQ+ and specifically anti-transgender rhetoric as well as many outright nonsensical statements. He has denounced trans women athletes, questioned the need to state one's pronouns, and spoken against marriage equality. He even suggested trans people won't get into heaven.

Among other baggage, Walker has been accused of hypocrisy by facilitating abortions for women he's been involved with, even though he opposes abortion rights. He has denied the allegations, as he has done with accusations of domestic abuse. One of his children, son Christian, has called his father a liar and a hypocrite. Christian, by the way, has been open about his relationships with men but says he's not gay.

Warnock's victory will give Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate. For the past two years, the body has been split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, meaning the Dems often had to rein in their two most conservative members, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and call on Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties. One extra seat should make it easier for the Democrats to get bills passed and judges confirmed, as it also means they will now have a majority of members on committees.

When Warnock was elected two years ago, he became the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia. He has been senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former pulpit of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the Senate, he has been a champion of equality for all. He has cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, which will write marriage equality into federal law and is expected to pass soon, and the Equality Act, a sweeping LGBTQ+ rights bill. He has taken stands for voting rights and for the trans community.

LGBTQ+ groups were thrilled with the election's result. "We are delighted to congratulate Senator Warnock on his re-election tonight," said a statement from Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson. "Senator Warnock is one of our strongest partners in advancing the cause of LGBTQ+ equality. He understands that every person in Georgia and across the United States deserves to live their lives knowing that they are respected for who they are and free from the pain of bigotry and discrimination.

"It should not be lost on anyone that Senator Warnock's political opponents spent millions of dollars attacking him for his support for our community. They have failed. Georgians rejected these reckless attacks tonight. We look forward to continuing our work with Senator Warnock to ensure that every LGBTQ+ person in Georgia, and throughout this country, is treated with dignity."

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis release this statement: "Georgia's voters have spoken once again and chosen a leader who has demonstrated a commitment to equality. Sen. Warnock has skillfully and compassionately spoken up and acted to advance LGBTQ equality throughout his public life, including and especially as a faith leader. Voters in state after state sent an unmistakable message through the midterm elections that every elected official must now heed: protect and restore basic human rights and reject harmful rhetoric against LGBTQ people. An overwhelming majority of Americans support laws to protect LGBTQ people and our rights to not be discriminated against and targeted for violence. The expanded pro-equality majority in the Senate must also move to increase freedoms and protections so every LGBTQ American has a greater chance at safety and success, in Georgia and coast to coast."

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.
Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.