Voting has opened for the United States Senate election in Georgia, a tight race that has drawn early voters.
On Tuesday, Georgia voters will decide whether to send Democrat Raphael Warnock or his Republican challenger Herschel Walker to Washington to be sworn in by the new Congress in early January.
No candidate won a majority of the vote in last month’s midterm race, which resulted in a close contest.
The mid-term elections in November saw Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives, but they retained a minority in the Senate, with 50 seats including the dissenting vote of Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris.
However, the Georgia Senate race has significant implications for US politics. Senators are elected for six-year terms, so winning an open seat in Georgia would help either party get through the next Congress, which ends in 2025.
Also, Democrats are looking to increase their control in the Senate so they don’t have to rely so much on their more conservative members to pass legislation and confirm officials and judges.
For Republicans, it’s a chance to go back to the November election. Republicans like former President Donald Trump predicted a “red wave” that failed to materialize during the midterms, and the party only retook the House by a narrow margin.
A victory for Walker, a Trump ally, would provide a much-needed boost to the former president, who announced his 2024 presidential campaign last month after failing in the midterms.
With a large majority, both parties poured resources into the Georgian race. Non-profit OpenSecrets, which monitors campaign finance, estimates that $380.7m has been spent on Georgia’s Senate race since November 29, making it the most expensive race of 2022.
The effort appears to be going well, with many voters voting early or absent. More than 1.86 million people turned up before election day, representing 26.7 percent of the state’s registered voters.
Warnock, a preacher, edged out Walker, an American football legend, last month by less than 1 percent of the vote. But the third-party Libertarian candidate won 2.1 percent of the vote, ensuring that no candidate cleared the 50 percent needed to win the primary.
The race in Georgia, where President Joe Biden beat Trump by a narrow margin in 2020, has been one of the most watched contests of this election season.
The scandals and scandals raised questions about the nomination of Walker, a staunch Trump supporter who highlighted his Christian faith during his campaign.
Walker has been accused of paying for abortions for two women he was in a relationship with, even though he supported abortion legislation. He has strongly denied the allegations as political. Major US media outlets that reported the women’s claims said they were unable to verify their accounts.
However, the former University of Georgia running back continues to enjoy the support of the Republican leadership, and the Senate race remains close, according to public opinion polls.
A CNN poll last week showed Warnock four points ahead of Walker.
For his part, Warnock — who was elected in 2020 in a special election that also went to the polls — has focused on his legislative work, including a bipartisan effort to secure federal funding for Georgia.
He has also shown that he supports reproductive rights, unlike his opponent’s views on abortion.
Warnock’s campaign has also sought to deepen Walker’s relationship with Trump. One video commercial shows Trump praising Walker, while two lines appear on the screen: “Stop Donald Trump. Stop Herschel Walker.”