This U.S. Senate matchup is the first in state history between two Black contenders, and only the second in American history. Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, made history nearly two years ago when he became the first Black U.S. Senator ever to represent Georgia on Capitol Hill. If Walker wins, he will become the first Black Republican senator from Georgia to serve in Washington.
Polls across the state will be open from 7 a.m to 7 p.m., as voters who haven’t cast their ballots decide which candidate they want to represent them in Washington for the next six years.
Black voters are expected to play a key role in the ultimate outcome. More than 1.8 million people have voted early in this race, even with reports that overall Black turnout has been down this election cycle when compared to previous years.
Warnock and Walker have taken opposite positions on many issues Black voters care about most, including inflation, the overall economy, crime, policing, health care, abortion, and voting rights.
Warnock has been a proponent of using federal government spending to stimulate job creation and provide economic relief to millions of furloughed and laid-off Americans during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor from Savannah voted in favor of the CARES Act, which funded additional unemployment benefits and stimulus checks for millions of Americans, and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which sent billions in added government funding to Georgia last year.
Warnock backed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which set aside funding for broadband investment in areas of the state with limited internet access.
“I’ve long championed efforts to strengthen broadband access, and I look forward to ensuring Georgians receive as much funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as possible so that all Georgians have access to the reliable broadband they need in order to thrive in our growing economy,” Warnock said in a related press release.
He’s a proponent of investing in clean energy production to create jobs in Georgia while combating climate change.
Walker has criticized excessive federal government spending throughout his campaign, arguing that the pandemic relief and economic stimulus bills supported by Democrats led to the nation’s inflation crisis.
“The truth is the left, they brought this economy on us. They brought this inflation on us,” Walker said during an August campaign stop in Perry.
The Wrightsville native supports lowering taxes on businesses to stimulate job creation and using more domestic fossil fuel sources to become energy independent and curb inflation.
He opposes student loan forgiveness, which he has said would unfairly force some Americans to pay for others’ borrowing. He’s against investing in green energy, arguing the country isn’t ready to stop using fossil fuels yet.
“What we need to do is keep having those gas-guzzling cars, ’cause we got the good emissions under those cars,” Walker told a campaign crowd in a viral clip shared online last month.
Walker also supports lowering taxes across the board.
Warnock is a supporter of Medicaid expansion.
In August, he proposed an Inflation Reduction Act amendment that would’ve addressed a gap in Medicaid coverage for low-income people.
“I’m glad to see my legislation to limit seniors’ prescription drug costs and cap insulin costs for Medicare patients pass the House, along with the rest of the Inflation Reduction Act that will strengthen health care and save Georgians money,” he said at the time. “This bill can’t get this signed into law soon enough.”
Warnock supports creating a public option for people who lack health care coverage. But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon rejected Warnock’s provision before the final version of the Inflation Reduction Act became law.
Walker has denounced Medicaid, arguing on the campaign trail that the program “continues to bankrupt us.”
“Right now, Medicaid has not been good,” he told reporters after a rally in Paulding County.
He has criticized Warnock’s support for the Inflation Reduction Act, arguing the measure doesn’t reduce inflation.
During his and Warnock’s only debate together in October, Walker expressed support for reducing insulin costs without specifying how he would do it. He argued better eating habits are more important.
“Unless [you’re] eating right, insulin is doing you no good,” he said.
Warnock has supported creating a federal law that includes the abortion rights protections previously contained in the Roe v. Wade decision, the landmark decision that gave women the constitutional right to choose abortion. Roe was overturned earlier this year.
“I think we have a responsibility here in the Senate and in Congress to protect what is clearly settled law,” Warnock told reporters in May.
“As a pro-choice pastor, I’ve always believed that a patient’s room is way too small for a woman, her doctor, and the United States government,” Warnock added in a tweet, echoing remarks he’s shared multiple times on the campaign trail this year.
“I’ll always fight to protect a woman’s right to choose. And that will never change.”
Walker has expressed staunch opposition to abortion, but his position on exceptions, including rape and incest, have been inconsistent.
On the campaign trail in May, Walker said he supports banning abortion with no exceptions.
During his October debate against Warnock, however, Walker clarified that he’s in favor of Georgia’s 2019 abortion restriction law, which includes exceptions for rape and incest, but bans most abortions from being performed after about six weeks of gestation, before most women realize they’re pregnant.
Walker has also been accused of hypocrisy on the issue of abortion. Earlier this year, two women accused him of conceiving children with them during separate, past romantic relationships before urging them both to get abortions.
Crime and policing
Warnock has voted for increasing firearm regulations at the federal level to combat rising gun violence, including mass shootings. In June, Warnock co-sponsored a proposed ban on AR-15-style, semiautomatic weapons that was still being discussed in the Ssenate chamber in late November.
“I’m proud we finally came together and took action to pass common-sense policies supported by a majority of Georgians and Americans,” he said. “Our work continues to ensure our schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, grocery stores, houses of worship, and communities are safe for all Georgians, in every corner of our state.”
He’s also supported overhauling the state’s criminal justice system to reduce mass incarceration, in part, by supporting the 2018 First Step Act, a law designed to make federal criminal sentencing guidelines fairer and help formerly incarcerated individuals better reintegrate into society.
He’s also supported investing in police training while increasing officer accountability.
Walker’s campaign has said he’s a “strong supporter of the Second Amendment.”
“The solution to this problem is not more laws taking away our Second Amendment rights or preventing Americans from defending themselves and their families,” Walker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. “[A]s a country, we need to get serious about developing better and more effective mental health programs.”
Warnock supports increasing voting rights protections at the federal level. He voted in favor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would have restored and strengthened parts of the 1965 Voting Rights act, in part by requiring certain states to seek federal approval before enacting specified changes to their voting laws.
Voting rights activists in Georgia urged Democrats in Washington to pass a new national voting rights law after Republicans enacted SB 202 in the wake of the 2020 election. Critics of SB 202 have argued the law was designed to reduce Black voter turnout after a surge in minority voters helped Democrats turn Georgia blue in 2020.
“Taking action to pass voting rights legislation is not a policy argument. It is about the democracy itself,” Warnock told his fellow senators in January. “Voting rights is how we address the deepening divides in our country, by ensuring every eligible voter’s voice is heard. And we, as elected representatives, have an obligation to protect their voice.
Walker has voiced opposition to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, arguing the bill “doesn’t fit what John Lewis stood for.”
He has echoed his friend Donald Trump’s false claims that widespread fraud took place during the 2020 election, and brushed off claims that SB 202 was a form of voter suppression.
“Democrats label anything they disagree with as racist,” Walker tweeted earlier this year. “Georgia’s voting law does NOT prevent black people from voting like Senator Warnock says it does. This is not about voter suppression, it is about President Biden and the federal government wanting more power.”