KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — Georgia candidates sought to eke out more votes Monday, making last-day appeals in races for governor and senator after 2.5 million ballots were cast early and hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to influence voters.
With total turnout that could exceed 4.5 million by the end of Tuesday’s election, there were still voters to persuade.
The race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker will help determine party control of a Senate now divided 50-50, with the vice president giving Democrats the tie-breaking vote. And incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is again facing Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in a race highlighting sharply contrasting philosophies of how Georgia should be governed.
At a rally in Macon, Warnock continued to portray himself as willing to work with Republicans for the good of the state, while sharpening attacks on Walker.
“He’s pretty good at making things up and now he wants to get the rest of us to imagine with him that he is of the timber to be a United States senator,” Warnock said. “Herschel Walker is neither ready nor fit to represent the people of Georgia in the United States Senate.”
Warnock also attacked Walker for campaigning with Georgia Republican congressional firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene and getting endorsed by Ye — the artist formerly known as Kanye West — even as Ye made weeks of antisemitic comments in interviews and on social media.
“Herschel Walker is demonstrating to you what kind of senator he would be by the company he’s keeping,” Warnock said.
Walker answered Monday evening in the Atlanta exurbs with a spirited speech attacking Warnock as a tool of President Joe Biden and national Democrats, while suggesting the senator does not have America’s best interests at heart.
“I’m running because I’m sick and tired of people not loving this country,” Walker said, arguing that the U.S. “can’t be the (world) leader with these weak leaders we have now.”
The Senate contest has grown more personal in closing weeks, including Walker, a former football star, openly questioning the faith credentials of Warnock, the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“We need warriors to come up to Washington, and when I go up there, Jesus Christ (is) going with me,” Walker said. “He can block, and I can run.”
Kemp, flying around the state with six other GOP candidates for statewide office, urged voters to reject Abrams and reward his stewardship of Georgia’s economy with another four years.
“Do you realize our state’s doing good because we’ve been saying no to Stacey Abrams?” Kemp asked a closing rally at a suburban Kennesaw airport hangar, citing his decision to remove restrictions from businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The incumbent described the differences between himself and Abrams as a fundamental contrasts in outlook.
“You see, that’s what this race is about,” Kemp said. “They trust the government to make decisions for you versus giving you the opportunity to do it yourself.”
Walker, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has played up culture war attacks whereas Kemp has run a more restrained campaign while casting Abrams as being insufficiently supportive of the police.
Abrams has targeted liberal voters with an arguments to fire Kemp and make Georgia more equitable. During a campaign stop at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, Abrams told reporters that voters “want change in the state of Georgia and we believe we’re that change.”
“My opponent has banned abortion, banned books, banned background checks, and my mission is to restore our freedom, invest in our communities and make certain that we have a future that we can all benefit from,” the Democrat said.
Later, at a brewery in Atlanta, Abrams spoke to volunteers texting and phoning people to vote. She slammed Kemp for the closure of hospitals in the state, noting he refused to accept billions in federal funding to fully expand Medicaid. “Our health care should not be on life support, his career should be,” she said.
Abrams said strong early voting gives her a chance to win, although public polls have consistently shown Abrams trailing Kemp. Abrams also raised the possibility that neither candidate would win a majority, which would require a Dec. 6 runoff by law.
“I am absolutely certain we have a chance either to win tomorrow or be in a runoff tomorrow,” Abrams said.
That could be even more of a possibility in the Senate race. Warnock, for now, said he was focusing on winning Tuesday. “If I have to, I’ll talk about it on Wednesday,” he said of a runoff.
Kemp on Monday repeated that he’s “working hard to get the whole statewide ticket elected,” and offered more specific reasons for Republicans to vote for Walker, echoing the Senate nominee’s attack on Warnock.
“Are you going to vote for a United States senator who’s voted with Joe Biden 96% of the time, or are you going to go and vote for somebody that’s going to focus on ending 40-year high inflation, getting better domestic energy policy, fixing the disaster at the border?”
Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala contributed from Atlanta.