The Jolt: Warnock rallies weekend voters, but Walker is out of sight

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock hardly took any time off for Thanksgiving break, headlining six separate events scattered across metro Atlanta this weekend to pump up weekend voting. Meanwhile, Herschel Walker, his Republican opponent, hasn’t had a public event since last Tuesday.

Walker is back on the campaign trail on Monday with stops in Toccoa and Cumming, but his disappearing act less than two weeks before the Dec. 6 runoff baffled many of his Republican allies.

Warnock had a lopsided presence over the holiday on Georgia airwaves, too. Democrats have roughly doubled Republicans’ TV ad spending in the runoff period.

That meant anyone watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the Atlanta metro area, for example, would have seen multiple positive Warnock campaign spots, with a limited response from 34N22, the super PAC supporting Walker with ads featuring Gov. Brian Kemp.

Warnock made the most out of having the campaign trail to himself over the weekend. Among his events was a boisterous “Souls to the Polls” march on Sunday with a few hundred supporters, highlighting the failed attempt by the Georgia GOP and other Walker allies to restrict Saturday voting ahead of the runoff.

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young helped lead the procession, and was joined by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Martin Luther King III.

When the group arrived at the polling place at Metropolitan Library in Southwest Atlanta, Warnock waited in line for about an hour with dozens of other voters before casting a ballot.

“Let me be clear: The only reason we were able to vote yesterday is because I sued them,” Warnock told the Sunday crowd before the march. “We took them to court and we won.”

So where was Walker over the last week? We’re told he held a few closed-door fundraising events, attended an event to honor Vince Dooley’s legacy and celebrated his mother’s 85th birthday with his family.


EARLY VOTING. Democrats’ early-voting push may have paid dividends.

Voters and election officials reported long lines in metro Atlanta and other Democratic-friendly territory, such as Athens, Columbus and Savannah. Voters in Augusta’s Richmond County almost broke a one-day early voting record on Sunday.

In all, at least 156,000 votes were cast over the weekend — making it the second-highest turnout weekend in the last four high-profile elections. (It was only eclipsed by the final weekend of the 2020 general election).

It was also the biggest single Sunday of early voting in all recent statewide elections. The electorate was disproportionately Black, the core constituency of Georgia’s Democratic coalition.

Voters in Democratic strongholds showed up in large numbers. More than 30,000 ballots were cast in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, while more than 40,000 voters cast ballots in Fulton County. Wait times at some polling sites there stretched more than two hours.

All 159 counties will offer early voting beginning today through Friday. We’ve got the details on early voting sites in every county.


Gov. Brian P. Kemp delivers the May announcement that South Korean automotive giant Hyundai Motor Group is building an electric vehicle plant in Ellabell, Georgia. Kemp has criticized U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock for backing a climate change measure that Kemp says could undermine the project. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

KEMP INTERVENES. While Herschel Walker kept a low profile, Gov. Brian Kemp went on the offensive this weekend.

The Republican panned U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock for backing a climate change measure that he said could undermine the $5.5 billion Hyundai plant that’s under construction near Savannah.

Kemp was referring to a provision that requires all electric vehicles to be American-made, or at least assembled in North America to qualify for lucrative incentives. Since Hyundai’s factory won’t be operational until 2025, the automaker’s more immediate customers could lose out on the break since their current electric fleet is made overseas.

It’s an argument that Walker hasn’t made himself. Instead, he’s criticized the growing green energy industry, which is central to Georgia’s economic development strategy, and called for Americans to stick with more “gas guzzling cars.

Warnock, meanwhile, has introduced legislation to tweak requirements for the tax credits after coming under fire from the South Korean automaker, which complained the new legislation could complicate plans for its plant. The Democrat’s bill hasn’t yet gained traction.


FUNDRAISING IMBALANCE. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock raised $52.2 million from Oct. 20 through Nov. 16, a period representing the final days of the general election campaign and roughly the first week of the runoff.

Republican challenger Herschel Walker collected $20.9 million during the same time frame.

Throughout the campaign, Walker has struggled to keep up with Warnock in overall fundraising. The Republican has collected $58.7 million from donors overall, compared with Warnock’s $175.7 million.

Warnock has also been able to spend more freely. During the pre-runoff period, his campaign reported $32.9 million in expenditures and ended the period with $29.7 million left in the bank.

Walker’s campaign spent $16.5 million over that time and has $9.8 million in cash on hand. However, their political parties and other outside groups are also spending heavily on behalf of both candidates.


KEMP PAC. Gov. Brian Kemp is broadening his political focus past Georgia now that he’s got his own reelection safely behind him.

Our pal Emma Hurt at Axios reports Kemp has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create Hardworking Americans, Inc., a federal PAC to support candidates across the country.

The name is a twist on, “hardworking Georgians,” the phrase Kemp uses in nearly every public statement he makes and has become a sort of mantra for the business-focused agenda the governor touted on the campaign trail.

The PAC will also help Kemp continue to raise his national profile as one of the few Republicans in the country who defied former President Donald Trump publicly, but went on to win reelection handily in both a primary and general election.


RALSTON REMEMBERED. The late House Speaker David Ralston was remembered at a memorial service in his beloved hometown of Blue Ridge Sunday.

Greg Bluestein wrote about the gathering and the final salute Ralston from his family, friends, and hundreds of colleagues, past and present, from the Georgia Legislature.

Former Gov. Nathan Deal delivered a eulogy, with Gov. Brian Kemp, and former governors Sonny Perdue and Roy Barnes in the audience, too.

Deal said none of the good things that happened in his administration would have been possible without Ralston’s help and imagined that his own wife Sandra, who died earlier this year, had welcomed the Speaker to heaven and given him a tour.

State Rep. Randy Nix, a close friend of Ralston’s, said in his remarks that the crowd assembled was saying goodbye to their friend, “Sine Die.”

“We look forward to that special session when we meet again,” he concluded.


RACE TO REPLACE. Brian K. Pritchard, a familiar face to any Republican in North Georgia, is announcing this morning that he will run in the special election for House District 7, the Blue Ridge-based district that House Speaker David Ralston represented for nearly 20 years.

Pritchard is the CEO of, an online news site that covers parts of North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. He often hosts Republican candidates and lawmakers on his streaming “BKP Politics” show, but will now switch roles as a Republican candidate himself.

Gov. Brian Kemp has set a special election for Jan. 3. to fill Ralston’s now- vacant HD-7 seat. The winner will serve for the full 2023-2024 legislative session.


U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker is campaigning in Taccoa and Cumming today. (Steve Schaefer/AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

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Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC


  • Herschel Walker campaigns in Toccoa and Cumming.
  • U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock holds events at Morehouse College, Kennesaw State University, and a Cobb County rally featuring Dave Matthews.
  • U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff will vote early in DeKalb County then hold a news conference on the first day of statewide early voting.



  • The U.S. Senate is expected to reconvene this afternoon after taking a Thanksgiving break. The House is back Tuesday.
  • President Joe Biden will visit with Nobel Prize winners.


State Sen. Michelle Au (center) is participating in creating Georgia's first  Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) caucus. (Lynsey Weatherspoon/The New York Times)

Credit: Lynsey Weatherspoon/The New York Times

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Credit: Lynsey Weatherspoon/The New York Times

GROWING POWER: A bipartisan group of lawmakers is creating Georgia’s first Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) caucus ahead of the 2023 legislative session.

With 11 voting members, Georgia will also have the most AAPI lawmakers of any state legislature in the nation.

State Sen. Michelle Au, D- Johns Creek, said that she hears from Asian Americans in Georgia who sometimes feel “a dismaying sense of invisibility.” The goal of the caucus, she said, is to represent the fast growing multicultural, multilingual Asian communities in Georgia.

Along with Au, who will join the state House, the caucus will include state Rep. Rep. Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock), state Rep.-elect Saira Draper (D-Atlanta), state Rep.-elect Soo Hong (R-Lawrenceville), state Sen. Nabilah Islam (D-Lawrenceville), state Rep. Marvin Lim (D-Norcross), state Rep.-elect Farooq Mughal (D-Buford), state Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville), state Sen. Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville), state Rep.-elect Ruwa Romman (D-Peachtree Corners), and state Rep.-elect Long Tran (D-Dunwoody).


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