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Walker-Warnock Race Most Expensive in 2022 Cycle as Runoff Intensifies

The Senate race in Georgia saw spending by candidates and outside groups skyrocket to $380.7 million as of November 29.

Sen. Raphael Warnock takes a selfie with supporters at a campaign rally outside the Democratic Party North Fulton headquarters on November 19, 2022, in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

The U.S. Senate race in Georgia is the most expensive contest of the 2022 cycle, according to OpenSecrets data, with spending by general election candidates and outside groups skyrocketing to $380.7 million as of Nov. 29.

Money is still pouring into the Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican nominee Herschel Walker. The Georgia contest advanced to a runoff when neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote on election day.

Both of the U.S. Senate races in Georgia, which advanced to a January runoff, were also the most expensive of the election 2020 cycle. More than $513.9 million poured into the most expensive race in which now-Sen. Jon Ossoff (D–Ga.) unseated incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R–Ga.).

The runoff election is happening one month earlier this cycle, on Dec. 6. Early voting started on Monday — and earlier in some counties — and will end on Friday, Dec. 2. On Monday, voters set the state’s record for the most ballots cast in one day of early voting.

Warnock has raised more money than any other federal candidate this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets data. Warnock’s campaign reported raising $150.5 million through Nov. 16, according to pre-runoff filings with the Federal Election Commission, three times the $58.3 million Walker’s campaign reported raising through the same period. Warnock also reported three times as much cash on hand – $29.7 million — heading into the final weeks of the runoff election.

From Oct. 20 through Nov. 16, Warnock raised twice as much money as Walker. The incumbent Democrat reported raising $51.9 million, while his GOP challenger reported raising $20.8 million.

Unlike in 2020, Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is no longer in question, but Warnock’s reelection bid is already more expensive than his special election bid last election cycle. During the 2020 election cycle, outside groups poured $184.5 million into the special election between Warnock and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who spent a combined $222 million.

Outside spending is also on track to blow past the inflation-adjusted $210.2 million spent by outside groups in the Warnock-Loeffler contest during the entire 2020 cycle, even with the shortened runoff timeline.

Outside Groups Have Poured About $60 Million Into Georgia Senate Runoff Since Election Day

Outside groups have spent about $60 million to sway voters for or against their preferred candidate in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff. That’s more than one-third of the $146.3 million outside groups spent on the race on or before the 2022 general election day on Nov. 8.

The biggest spenders are super PACs aligned with Democratic and Republican Senate leadership. The National Rifle Association has also spent big in the runoff compared to the group’s anemic spending during the general election, and two pro-Warnock “pop-up” super PACs have already dropped nearly $2.3 million into the runoff.

Georgia Honor, a super PAC funded by the Senate Majority PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), has spent nearly $52.5 million boosting Warnock and opposing Walker in the U.S. Senate race. More than $14 million has come in the three weeks since election day.

The vast majority of that has gone to attacking Walker, with one ad calling the GOP nominee “unfit for office” and pointing to his “long record of violence toward women.” Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, told CNN in 2008 that he held a razor to her throat and once, a gun to her temple, threatening to pull the trigger.

Walker told Axios he was “accountable” for violent acts he committed against his ex-wife in December. He has spoken openly about his mental health challenges, even writing a book about his struggles with dissociative identity disorder stemming from childhood trauma. Experts told the New York Times that the disorder does not cause violent behavior.

The other top spender is the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.). Senate Leadership Fund has poured $15.3 million into the Georgia runoff, bringing their total 2022 investment in the race up to $53.7 million.

A new Senate Leadership Fund attack ad criticizes Warnock and President Joe Biden for “reckless spending” that “keeps driving up inflation,” CNN reported. The ad also claims “a low income apartment building tied to Senator Raphael Warnock is filing eviction notices against residents.”

Walker alleged Ebenezer Baptist Church and Warnock, the church’s senior pastor, were attempting to evict Columbia Tower residents in October, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Warnock has denied the allegations, calling the attacks “vicious and venomous.”

The super PAC arm of the National Rifle Association — which spent just $639,000 boosting Walker and opposing Warnock during the general election — has spent more than $2.1 million supporting the GOP nominee and $1 million attacking the Democratic incumbent in the runoff.

The NRA Political Victory Fund awarded Warnock an “F” rating, urging voters to “Defend Freedom. Defeat Raphael Warnock.”

One pro-Warnock “pop-up” super PAC, Worker Power PAC for Georgia, put $1.8 million into field canvassing payroll and expenses on Nov. 15, the same day after it filed a statement of organization with the FEC.

“Pop-up” super PACs form right before an election so they can spend big now and disclose later, leaving voters in the dark about who is seeking to influence their vote. Worker Power PAC for Georgia’s pre-runoff report covering the period through Nov. 16 does not disclose any donors or expenditures, but instead reports the $1.8 million as a debt and obligation.

Another “pop-up” super PAC, Relay, spent $500,000 on “voter outreach and turnout” supporting Warnock on Nov. 27, the day before early voting started in Georgia. Relay filed a statement of organization with the FEC on Nov. 13 and did not disclose any donors in its pre-runoff report.