Explainer: Why is Georgia's US Senate runoff race important?

Explainer: Why is Georgia's US Senate runoff race important?
Though Democrats already hold a narrow senate majority, an extra seat could help them get through their agenda, including the confirmation of a Muslim appointee, which has been held up for more than a year.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
06 December, 2022
Democrats are hoping that this week's senate race in Georgia will give them an extra seat in the Senate. [Getty]

When votes are cast and counted this week in Georgia after Tuesday's US Senate runoff between incumbent Raphael Warnock and retired American football player Herschel Walker, the balance of the chamber will remain in control of Democrats with at least 50 seats, with the vice president playing the role of a tiebreaker. 

However, one additional senator for the party could make an important difference in how they vote and get through legislation and confirmations, particularly with the presence of two of the more conservative-leaning Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

"It would be nice for Democrats to have a true majority in the Senate. They're only 50/50 right now. It would give them a little bit of a cushion," J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told The New Arab. On Monday, the day before the election, the group changed their prediction for the race from a toss-up to leaning Democratic.

Even with a slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives, another senate seat for Democrats could be a game-changer for presidential nominations that require Senate confirmation.

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In 2021, President Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate Dilawar Syed to serve as Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Senate confirmation process has been stalled. 

"The Republicans were not showing up. They pointed out that he served on our board. They noted we had some questionable criticism of Israel as the reason for why they didn't show up," Mohamed Gula, national director of Emgage-Action, an organisation that focuses on Muslim voter engagement, told TNA

Since then, the Biden administration has shown support for Syed publicly and has given him a different appointment at the State Department that doesn't need senate confirmation while still working to get Senate confirmation. This race has the potential to get him his needed senate votes.

The Georgia runoff race has been the subject of ridicule for comedians and in the daily news, with Walker making bizarre statements about aliens, werewolves and vampires, and renting his neighbours' children so he can watch cartoons. And possibly most importantly for many voters has been his public stance against abortion while facing allegations that he forced past partners to have abortions and also lied about his number of children.

Though many observers are puzzled that this senate race is as close as it is, given the differences in professional background and speech content between the two candidates, it is important to remember that until recently Georgia was considered a solidly red state.

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Moreover, several prominent Republican leaders have openly stated that they care more about the makeup of the senate than about the qualifications of the candidates. The coming hours will determine if Republican voters feel the same.

Looking forward to 2024, Coleman believes that if Democrats are able to get this one extra senate seat, it could make it slightly easier for them in the next senate election cycle, as there will be 33 seats up for votes, 23 of which are considered vulnerable for the Democrats.

As for Warnock himself, Coleman has already heard suggestions that he could be a promising Democratic presidential contender.

"I would not be surprised if he wins if he gets buzz as a presidential contender," said Coleman. "Over the course of the elections, he's battle-tested. And unlike some recent ones, Warnock is younger."