The Georgia run-off elections can continue to make history and usher in a new era for politics in the Peach State. Primed to become a figure for the transition is Reverend Raphael Warnock, representing the Democratic Party and set to become the first Black senator in the state’s history and the 10th Black senator in the history of our country.
During the November election, the two Republican senators did not draw a majority of the vote, creating a runoff election that is occurring in January. The election will determine which of America’s two major political parties will have control over the Senate. The result of the election will come two weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. With an election win, Rev. Warnock will become an instrumental party of a Senate that will assist in legislation led by Biden.
Rev. Warnock is Georgia. Growing up in the Kayton Homes public housing in Savannah, he was bred in a home that was built upon faith. He is one of eleven brothers and sisters and the value of hard work was instilled. Those values led him to serve the country as a veteran, a small businessman, and a preacher, juggling towing old cars to a steel yard and on Sunday preached at a church in the area.
“I know that a kid growing up here today, and struggling families all across Georgia, have it harder now than I did back then,” Warnock says in one of his ads. “That’s gotta change. And it will.”
Rev. Warnock was a student at Morehouse College, graduating with a Ph.D. and would go on to become an ordained minister. He would go on to become Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which at one point was pastored by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, making the church and choice of college a commonality for both men.
Now, Rev. Warnock is turning to serve his state in a different way, looking to impact his home state on Capitol Hill. Rev. Warnock is aiming to assist struggling families of the state, who feel that no one is there to support them. Of his platform is affordable health care, the dignity of the working class and to amplify voices that have been marginalized. Also included in his platform include protecting and growing Georgia’s farming economy, placing an end to mass incarceration and ensuring equality for the LGBTQ+ community.
“If you elect me to the Senate, I’ll wake up every day, guided by the values of hard work and passion instilled in me by my parents and inspired by the words of Dr. King who said that Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” Warnock said in a campaign ad. “Even in these crazy times, I still think it’s possible to work together to improve the lives of Georgians. All Georgians. That’s exactly what I’ll do in Washington.”
The attempt at securing a Senate seat has come with hurdles. Beyond the general attempt of the Republican Party to remain in power, has come desperate attacks at Rev. Warnock’s character and the attempts to spin the messages that he prepares to his congregation. Rev. Warnock is joined by Jon Ossoff for the Democratic Party going against, running against incumbent Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. The latter, his direct opponent, recently attacked Rev. Warnock by attributing a statement made by another minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. of Chicago. The New York Times reports the false attribution was run in a million-dollar ad buy. Rev. Warnock did not endorse or echo the sentiments of Rev. Wright. The statement was one of the attempts to paint Rev. Warnock as a radical liberal, instead, Rev. Warnock stays true to his core values: “truth-telling tradition of the Black church.”
In support of Warnock, over 100 Black pastors signed a letter denouncing the attacks of Loeffler, accusing her of attacking the Black church. “We witnessed your naked hypocrisy as you supported 59 attempts at the delegitimization of Black voters with meaningless lawsuits by the Trump campaign operatives,” the letter reads calling out her supporting efforts to overturn President Donald Trump’s election loss.
The pastors added, “What can be more radical, more seditious than supporting 59 attempts to overthrow the will of the people by tossing Black votes?”
The collection of pastors would ask for Loeffler to “cease and desist your false characterizations of Reverend Warnock” that aligned him with radical and socialist beliefs.
“While Sen. Loeffler is busy calling me names, let me tell you where I stand,” Rev. Warnock said. “I believe that in the greatest nation in the world people should have affordable health care, that Georgians who work hard every day deserve a livable wage, and that seniors ought to be able to afford the cost of prescription drugs. Kelly Loeffler may think that’s radical. I think it’s common sense.”
Ossoff called the incumbent out for her appearances positioned next to a known member of the Ku Klux Klan. “I’ve been deeply honored to run alongside my friend Jon Ossoff,” Warnock told Yahoo News. “We’re both focused on our own races, but what matters is the people of Georgia.”
Instead of responding with petty tactics, Rev. Warnock has remained steadfast and serving his state. Speaking with Yahoo! News, Rev. Warnock highlighted the honor it would be to become the first Black senator in Georgia, echoing his ambitions of who he plans to serve. “I hope that seeing me accomplish that will encourage and inspire other marginalized people and people of good conscience in our state to step up and fight for what they believe in,” Warnock said.
He added, “In no other place other than America is my story even possible. So I believe the American dream is still possible, but it is slipping away from far too many, and the gap between the haves and the have nots is becoming a chasm.”
The support for Warnock is widespread. Beyond celebrity and influencer endorsements across the state, President-Elect Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris have extended their support during the road to the crucial runoff. Political staples like the Congressional Black Caucus, Democracy for America, the Human Rights Campaign Pac, and more have lent their names and reputations. In addition, powerful animus in politics ranging from the late congressman John Lewis to former House Minority Leader and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacy Abrams. Endorsements are also shared across the country from senators such as Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Dick Durbin of Illinois, along with 74 national security leaders.
“We are confident that Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will support Georgia’s servicemembers, their families, and veterans — in the same way they have pledged to support all Georgians — with integrity, honesty, and selflessness,” the national security leaders message reads in part. “These qualities are not only critical to U.S. leadership but also are particularly needed in the U.S. Senate following the last four years of instability and degraded national security.”
One of the recent endorsement ads in support of Rev. Warnock has come from Former First Lady Michelle Obama petitioning for Georgians to join her in his election bid. In her messaging, she highlights the importance of affordable health care and economic relief for the working families of Georgia. “I’m asking you to vote for Reverend Raphael Warnock, because I know he’ll work with Joe Biden to help make health care more affordable,” Mrs. Obama said.
All of this leads to a January 5 runoff election. According to an Interior Department report uncovered in the New York Times, the Georgia runoff law was carted in the 1960s as a form of white supremacy. The event was created to preserve white political power in a majority-white states and suppressing the power of Black politicians who could more easily win in a multi candidate race. Since the 1990s, Democrats have only won three of seven statewide runoff elections. This runoff is aimed to even out the past results.
This runoff election is being held as the two majority political parties are tied at 48-48. Senate races in Alaska and North Carolina are expected to be called in favor of Republicans, making the lead 50-48 and causing both seats in Georgia to swing blue for a tie. In that event, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tiebreaker vote, which is believed to be in support of the Democratic Party.
After Georgia flipped blue during the presidential election there is optimism that the Senate runoff too can swing blue, providing the necessary support for President-Elect Biden to have the support to pass critical needs for citizens. For example, a Republican-controlled house was able to deny an increase in stimulus checks from $600 to $2000 in December 2020. After a majority decision support the change came from the House of Representatives, the matter didn’t make it to the Senate floor as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denied the matter. That denial from McConnell allowed for Warnock to highlight how Loeffler did not push to help the citizens of her state in a statement.
“Kelly Loeffler made clear her priorities when she sold $3 million of her own stock while downplaying the pandemic, called unemployment relief ‘counterproductive,’ and then waited nearly nine months to take any action on additional relief while Georgians lost their jobs. Georgians learned long ago they can’t trust Kelly Loeffler to look out for anyone but herself.”
The momentum behind both Warnock and Ossoff is strong. The Times also disclosed each campaign has raised over $100 million since October. Funds have received support from inside of the state but also generous offerings from across the country. The donations come from smaller offerings across from across the country with numerous givings totaling less than $200. During the same time period, Oct. 15 to Dece. 16, Loeffler’s fundraising was $64 million.
The previous record was set by Jaime Harrison in his battle against incumbent Republican senator Lindsey Graham, however, Harrison’s campaign is a testimony to the power of an actual vote from the people as he lost to Graham.
Early voting in Georgia is breaking records. More than 2.3 million people participated in early voting. The U.S. Elections Project cited 1.5 million people voted in person and over 800,000 mail-in ballots were received. In previous elections, there would be a drop off in support for the general election and a runoff. Over 79,000 people who did not vote in the November election have cast a ballot for the runoff, with 168,000 Georgians hitting the polls the day they opened.
With numbers projecting high, Rev. Warnock is still calling for more to get out and seal the victory. “Election Day is just four days away. We need all hands on deck to make calls, send texts, and knock doors to help get Georgians out to the polls,” Warnock wrote on Twitter.