Hollywood, get out the checkbook — again. The pricey U.S Senate campaign in Georgia is about to get even pricier as Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker square off for a Dec. 6 runoff election.
The race was already breaking spending records, with entertainment industry fave Warnock building a stunning $124 million war chest to Walker’s $37.6 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The senior pastor at Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta is already backed by Hollywood A-Listers, including veteran TV producer Norman Lear, producer/directors J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. Warnock got more money from individual donors in California than from Georgia.
With control of the Senate at stake, the race was too close to call after Tuesday’s election. Warnock had a slight lead on Wednesday, at 49.4% (1,941,499 votes), to Walker’s 48.5% (1,906,246 votes). And since neither reached the 50% threshold, the race will go to a runoff on Dec. 4 that could determine whether Democrats retain a slim majority in the Senate.
“Everyone will put money into Georgia,” veteran Democratic political consultant Rick Taylor told TheWrap.
While Warnock has a big lead in out-of-state fundraising, Taylor said the GOP will back Walker strongly: “We’ll see him continuing to get whatever money he needs.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is now planning a trip to Georgia to lend a hand to football legend Walker, an antiabortion conservative who was dogged by reports during the general election that he paid two girlfriends to have abortions. He has denied the claims.
Warnock raised more than $8.72 million from donors in California for his Tuesday re-election bid. (That’s 73% more than the $5.03 million he’s collected from his home state of Georgia.)
“Keep the faith,” Warnock told supporters early Wednesday morning in a video released by his campaign. “We’re going to take that journey together over the next six years.”
Walker told supporters Wednesday that he feels very positive about the runoff, and asked them to hang with him for another month so he can lock up a win.
“I’m like Ricky Bobby. I don’t come to lose,” he said, referring to the Will Ferrell NASCAR driver character in the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
Overall, Warnock has led the pack in 2022 campaign donations from individuals in the TV/Movies/Music sector with nearly $1 million raised, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
This will be Warnock’s second runoff election since 2021, when he was ultimately elected to fill the late Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term after his retirement in 2019.
After winning his own re-election on Tuesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told reporters Wednesday that the election in his state ran smoothly and fairly, and he will ensure the same for the runoff election between Walker and Warnock for the U.S. Senate.
As his state’s top election official, Raffensperger gained national recognition from the congressional committee hearings on the Jan. 6, 2020 Capitol riot. The committee played a December 2019 video from Raffensperger’s office in which he and other Georgia Republicans rejected former Pres. Donald Trump’s attempts to pressure them to overturn votes in their state for Biden and hand Trump the victory.
Raffensperger loosely referred to such election denials while thanking his Democratic opponent, Bee Nguyen, for calling him Tuesday night to “graciously concede” the race.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We need all candidates who come up short to acknowledge it, and to come back, and fight within our system, another day,” Raffensperger said in a press conference at the Georgia state capitol steps.
He said he looks forward to his office allowing “the voters of Georgia to decide the race” for the Senate, and his office already has started building official ballots for the runoff.
“At the end of the day, everyone wants to know that we have honest and fair elections, and we do,” Raffensperger said.