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How did Georgia U.S. Senate race end up in a runoff? Here's the breakdown

Warnock outperformed Biden's 2020 showing in big counties. Herschel Walker underperformed other Republicans.

ATLANTA — Republicans won every other statewide election in Georgia earlier this week – except for a U.S. Senate seat.

Incumbent Raphael Warnock got more votes than any other Democrat candidate in the state, falling less than a percentage point shy of defeating Republican Herschel Walker. But neither candidate received the required 50% plus 1 vote needed to avoid a Dec. 6 runoff.

Several factors helped Warnock force this race into a runoff.

Walker underperformed Gov. Brian Kemp in every Georgia county, and the football star turned politician performed the worst in metro Atlanta. On the other hand, Warnock outperformed President Joe Biden’s 2020 mark in about 30% of Georgia’s counties, according to an 11Alive review of election data.

The final tally in Georgia’s U.S. Senate race has yet to be certified. More than 3.9 million ballots were cast, and all counties had finished counting, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office as of Friday.

Close to 5 million votes were cast in the 2020 presidential election between Biden and former President Donald Trump.

While fewer votes were cast in 2022, Warnock still gained a larger share of votes in 46 of Georgia’s 159 counties than Biden.

These are five counties where Warnock outperformed Biden, according to the margin of votes:

  • Henry County: 4.05% points more Democratic
  • Rockdale County: 3.35% points more Democratic
  • Douglas County: 2.78% points more Democratic
  • Chattahoochee County: 2.47% points more Democratic
  • Clayton County:  2.46% points more Democratic

Warnock also outperformed Biden in Fulton (0.92% points), DeKalb (1.14% points) and Cobb (0.39% points) counties.

RELATED: Why does Georgia have runoff elections?

Walker underperformed compared to other GA Republicans

Walker was the only Republican candidate with less than two million votes in Tuesday’s election.

The other top Republican in the cycle was Kemp. From February to November, Kemp never trailed in polling averages. He defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams with more than 53% of the total vote.

Walker got fewer votes than Kemp in all of Georgia’s 159 counties. Kemp received roughly 200,000 more votes than Walker did. These were Walker’s worst counties when compared against Kemp’s performance.

  • DeKalb  - Walker got 76.95% of the votes that Kemp did.
  • Fulton -  Walker got 80.19% of the votes that Kemp did.
  • Clarke - Walker got 82.56% of the votes that Kemp did.
  • Clayton - Walker got 83.58% of the votes that Kemp did.
  • Cobb - Walker got 85.18% of the votes that Kemp did.

"The reason why he underperformed relative to the other Republican candidates was because of the challenges we talked an awful lot about this cycle," said Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie. "He is a novice candidate who didn't always indicate that he had a firm grasp of the issues, and he was dogged by personal challenges."

More votes for the libertarians

Like the 2020 U.S. Senate race that eventually ended with Jon Ossoff heading to D.C., the 2022 election featured a libertarian candidate who garnered enough votes to prevent Walker or Warnock from reaching the 50% plus one threshold.

Chase Oliver received more than 81,000 votes or over 2% of the total ballots cast. In the 2020 Senate race, Shane Hazel received nearly 115,000 votes or more than 2% of the total ballots cast.

"To me the message is clear  — 80,000-plus voters have decided that the two-party system does not represent them and they want a choice outside the two-party system," Oliver told 11Alive earlier this week. "That says to me that we need to open up our democracy to more choices and more voices, so we have a more representative United States Senate and democracy overall."

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