The 2022 midterms have concluded and votes are still being counted in multiple states to determine whether the Democrats or Republicans will control the power balance of both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. A shift in control in either one of these branches of Congress would halt much of the congressional work Joe Biden hopes to accomplish for the rest of his first term as President. Republicans, who banked upon a “Red Wave” to sweep both branches of Congress, now find their hopes for control of the Senate in limbo as key states like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire saw Democrats win the Senate seat for their state by considerable margins, going against previous polling odds. However, key battleground state Georgia remains contested, with Democrat Raphael Warnock winning 49.4% of the vote and Republican Herschel Walker winning 48.5% of the vote. Because neither candidate received a majority of the vote (over 50%), Georgia state law requires the election to advance to a runoff.
Georgia’s circumstances for this second election are not particularly common, as many states allow for candidates to win by a plurality, or under 50% of the vote, so long as they received the most votes. In states which require it, when a candidate does not receive a majority of votes, another election is held to determine which candidate receives over 50% of the vote. The second election in this process is called a runoff election.
Raphael Warnock (pictured right) was previously elected to the U.S. Senate for Georgia in 2020 when he defeated Kelly Loeffler (R), who was not elected to her position but rather was appointed to continue Johnny Isakson’s (R) term after he resigned from office due to health issues. The special circumstances of this election meant that Warnock would only have his seat for 2 years as opposed to the usual 6 for Senators, as Isakson’s original term was set to expire in 2022.
Georgia in recent years has trended Democrat, with Representative Stacey Abrams (D) leading the charge to increase access to voting to all across the state, particularly in poor areas which usually see less voter participation. Abrams also helped encourage thousands of young voters to register to and vote for the first time in both the 2018 and 2020 elections, the former of which she was a candidate for Governor. Her efforts saw Georgia’s electoral votes go to Joe Biden in the 2020 election; the first time since 1992 when Georgia went blue for a presidential election. Abrams ran again for Georgia State Governor this election cycle against Brian Kemp (R), but was once again defeated. However, her campaigning efforts still might have paid off for her party. Despite the thin margin between the two candidates, Warnock is currently favored to win reelection, if only slightly.
Time will tell just how important this election will turn out to be in deciding which party controls Congress. As the race currently stands on November 12, 2022, Democrats and Republicans hold 49 Senate seats each, with Georgia and Nevada still being decided, each race hotly contested. Should Republicans take control of the senate, not only will many of Biden’s legislative goals be hindered, but so will his ability to appoint federal judges, including judges to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, packed with members appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump, plays a critical role in the law of the nation, defining people’s rights and privileges. This past year saw the Supreme Court overturn the long standing case Roe v. Wade, which before it was overturned, protected people’s right to an abortion. To confirm an appointee to the Supreme Court made by the President, a majority of the Senate vote is required. Should Democrats lose their slim 50/50 majority, potential Biden appointees would likely be unable to be placed on the Supreme Court.
Furthermore, Biden’s economic, climate change reduction, affordable healthcare, and gun control agendas would be quashed and unable to be placed into law. However, as long as Biden remains President, Republican efforts to implement their agendas like outlawing abortion nationwide and tightening immigration laws would be vetoed by Biden and unable to be codified. Essentially, political gridlock would ensue until Congressional control shifts back to the Democrats, or a Republican President were to be elected.
The Georgia runoff will occur on December 6, 2022; the potential decider as to which party not only controls the Senate, but controls Congress as a whole.