ATLANTA — Incumbent Raphael Warnock fended off former football star turned Republican politician Herschel Walker, earning a six-year term to the United States Senate in Tuesday's runoff.
The Georgia Democrat won the party's only statewide race in the 2022 midterm cycle, though Walker managed to force the race into a runoff after neither candidate got the necessary 50% plus 1 vote share to win outright in November.
Fewer ballots were cast in December's runoff, but a larger portion of Warnock's voters returned to the polls. As of Thursday morning, Warnock led Walker by more than 96,000 votes.
About 70% of Georgia counties shifted further toward Warnock in the runoff. He saw his vote share increase in nearly every Georgia county compared to November. Warnock reported some of his largest vote share increases in the heavily populated metro Atlanta area while Walker struggled in the state's largest counties.
"Warnock's voters were more enthusiastic to come back out," Mercer University political science professor Chris Grant said. "Warnock ran an everywhere campaign. The candidate was on top of everything."
11Alive reviewed voting data from November's general election and the December runoff.
As expected, turnoff drops in runoffs. In November, more than 3.9 million ballots were cast in the Senate race. As of Wednesday evening, more than 3.5 million runoff ballots were cast.
The runoff total has not been certified, but all 159 counties have finished counting, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's office.
Warnock got a larger share of the votes in 148 of the state's 159 counties in the runoff. 11Alive compared the difference between Warnock and Walker's November performances and the December runoff to determine how much Georgia counties shifted.
November's race featured Libertarian Chase Oliver. There was not a third candidate in the runoff, meaning there were counties where both Warnock and Walker improved their vote share.
More than 100 counties shifted further towards Warnock, according to analysis.
The five counties that shifted the furthest towards Warnock are:
Stewart: 7.68% points.
Walker lost 3.42%, while Warnock gained 4.25%.
Johnson: 5.04% points.
Walker lost 2.27%, while Warnock gained 2.77%
Chattahoochee: 4.60% points.
Walker lost 1.12%, while Warnock gained 3.48%.
Early: 4.60% points.
Walker lost 1.94%, while Warnock gained 2.66%
Fulton: 4.07% points.
Walker lost 1.09%, while Warnock gained 2.97%.
Other urban counties where Warnock performed well include Gwinnett (3.90% point improvement), Clarke (3.34% point improvement), DeKalb (3.33% point improvement) and Muscogee (3.27% point improvement.)
Where Walker's vote share dropped
Walker saw his total vote share drop in 53 counties from November to December, according to election data. A majority of them are in the state's urban and Black Belt regions.
The five counties where Walker's vote share decreased the most are:
Stewart: -3.42% points
Johnson: - 2.27% points
Early: -1.94% points
Randolph: -1.55% points
Hancock: -1.32% points
Other noteworthy counties where Walker's vote share dropped include Fulton (-1.09% points), Muscogee (-0.88% points), DeKalb (-0.85% points), Chatham (-0.76% points) and Gwinnett (-0.72% points).
Walker performed poorly in the metro Atlanta area in both races. He got roughly 203,000 fewer votes than Gov. Brian Kemp in the general election. He trailed Kemp the most in DeKalb and Fulton counties.