"We were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible. May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold of the American dream. And so, Georgia, I am honored by the faith that you have shown in me. And I promise you this tonight: I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election. (Excerpt of Rev. Warnock's victory speech)
Whoever would have thought that in the state of Georgia we would see the people… rise up and send an African American man who grew up in public housing, the pastor of this Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King preached, and a Jewish young man, the son of an immigrant, to the US Senate? (CNN)
It is my hope that businesses, athletes, and entertainers can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head-on, and hand-in-hand with the community." (CNN)
“I have spent my career and my time as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church trying to bring people together,” he said in an interview, when asked about his defense of religious leaders who have criticized the United States. He called bringing people together difficult work. “It requires that we actually talk to one another, rather than about one another,” he said. “It requires deep engagement because, I think, bigotry feeds on fear.” (NY Times)
In the pulpit, Mr. Warnock has positioned himself as a moral compass for government. Now he [will] continue that job — in Washington. (NY Times)
Warnock grew up in a Savannah, Ga., housing project, the 11th of 12 siblings in a blended family. His father was from the rural Lowcountry along the Savannah River. The elder Warnock served in the Army in World War II, and family lore includes a time when he was asked to give up a bus seat while in uniform. In Savannah, he salvaged cars and preached on Sundays in a Pentecostal Holiness church, hanging an American flag behind his pulpit and beginning services with the Pledge of Allegiance.
In the history of Black pastors-turned-politicians, among the most famous was Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the Harlem congressman and civil rights leader who in 1938 succeeded his father as the leader of Abyssinian Baptist Church.
That is where Mr. Warnock landed a job as youth minister at the church when he was 22. He had moved to New York to attend the prestigious Union Theological Seminary, where he would go on to earn two master’s degrees and later a doctorate. By that time, Abyssinian was under the leadership of Calvin O. Butts III, a fellow Morehouse alumnus.
While there, Mr. Warnock protested negative stereotypes in rap lyrics and criticized the heavy-handed police response to a “Million Youth March.” He also spoke out against the welfare work requirement put in place by Rudolph W. Giuliani, then the mayor, calling it a “hoax” in which “poor people are being put into competition with other poor people.”
In his scholarship, he dove into what would become a lifelong theme: the role of the church in public life.
In his 2006 dissertation and a 2013 book, Mr. Warnock laid out a vision to unite the sometimes competing forces in Black Christianity to confront the ills of a nation plagued by mass imprisonment, drug addiction and a yawning wealth gap. As a candidate, he … adopted a similar platform, calling for criminal justice reform, a living wage and expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
“The Black church has been the conscience of America,” he said during a 2011 event.
In his early 30s, Mr. Warnock was tapped to lead a church of his own, Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore. He began his tenure by urging members to fight urban blight and drug addiction and encouraging clergy to be tested for H.I.V., at a time when AIDS was ravaging Black communities. He ended one service in 2001 by getting tested himself.
In 2004, a job came open that seemed almost tailor-made for Mr. Warnock: senior pastor at Ebenezer, the church in the heart of Atlanta, with a storied role in the civil rights movement.
Mr. Warnock was in his mid-30s, and his selection stood in sharp contrast to the retiring pastor, Joseph Roberts, who had served for three decades.
The job came with instant entree to Atlanta’s upper echelons, and Mr. Warnock, sharply dressed and considered one of the city’s most eligible bachelors, walked red carpets and greeted visiting celebrities.
A few months after his arrival at Ebenezer in 2005, he led a “Freedom Caravan” to bus people displaced by Hurricane Katrina back to New Orleans so they could vote.
He took up the cause of death row inmates, and Genarlow Wilson, the star athlete and prom king who was sentenced to 10 years for a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old when he was 17. (Mr. Baker, the attorney general and Ebenezer member, ultimately lost his appeal and Mr. Wilson was freed.)
Over the years, progressives found that Mr. Warnock could lend credibility to their efforts, helping ward off criticism not just from conservatives, but skeptical Democrats. Stacey Abrams got to know Mr. Warnock first in her role as a lawyer for the city of Atlanta, then as the Democratic minority leader in the Georgia Assembly. In 2014, she went to him for help with an ambitious voter registration plan.
He became a spokesman for Ms. Abrams’s New Georgia Project, working with the group to expand its voting drive to congregations, and later replaced Ms. Abrams as chair of the board of directors.
“What I see in Raphael Warnock, every time we talk, every time we engage, is this belief that is core to him: that morality demands that he do good,” Ms. Abrams said in an interview.
Mr. Warnock officially entered the race at the end of January. In a contest with 20 candidates, he was the anointed Democrat, with the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the hope that he would appeal to moderate white voters who were turned off by President Trump and motivate people who leaned left but did not often find candidates to whom they could relate.
WARNOCK ON THE ISSUES
• "Fighting for workers also means he will oppose Washington tax breaks that benefit the richest of the rich while leaving behind the poor and working families that need help the most." (justfacts.votesmart.org)
• "The budget is not just a fiscal document, it’s a moral one. Giving tax cuts to the rich while cutting critical services, including health care, is immoral." (twitter.com)
• Endorsed by End Citizens United.
• "Let me be clear, I oppose defunding the police. But we have to respect law enforcement enough to hold them accountable." (twitter.com)
• "Justice has not been served against the cops who killed Breonna Taylor. Kenneth Walker and Breonna Taylor are both victims of a system that views Black bodies as less than. We need real police reform and #JusticeforBreonnaTaylor." (twitter.com)
• "In the Senate, Reverend Warnock will advocate for: Repairing our crumbling roads and bridges that create [sic]good-paying jobs; Innovation in air, water and ground transportation, and the expansion of our coastal ports; [...] Increasing funding for local project developments in historically underserved areas and communities of color; Investing in technology like broadband …; Protecting major transportation hubs that are critical to our economy, …and Researching and investing in infrastructure around clean energy and transportation." votesmart.org)
• "Revoking tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs and supporting made-in-America incentives;" (warnockforgeorgia.com)
• "Working families across Georgia are suffering. Congress must pass additional funding for small businesses with oversight and transparency to ensure that these tax dollars reach those who need it most." (twitter.com)
• "Workers and small businesses are being hit hard financially by coronavirus but so are our states. Washington has bailed out the corporate boardrooms - it is irresponsible to let states go bankrupt. Our pensioners don't deserve to shoulder this crisis." (twitter.com)
• "Working people can’t afford a stimulus package that doubles as a slush fund for billionaires. This money should go to helping small businesses pay their employees, and Americans deserve to know where every penny of their tax dollars go." (twitter.com)
• "By reinvesting in a clean economy based on green transportation and energy infrastructure, Reverend Warnock believes that we can create good, family-sustaining jobs that will prepare s for the 21st century. " (votesmart.org)
• We need to end the epidemic of gun violence that has plagued our country." (twitter.com)
• Endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety.
• "Today, Republicans submitted a brief to SCOTUS to repeal the ACA. You don’t have to be shot down by the police for racism to kill you. If you don’t have access to health care, that will kill you. As your Senator I'll fight for quality, affordable health care for all" (twitter.com)
• "Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, a policy that has provided healthcare to 20 million Americans. Now, more than ever, we have a duty to protect and expand the ACA to ensure universal coverage." (twitter.com)
• "We're a nation of immigrants, and our shared values and beliefs make us uniquely American. I'm proud to stand with DREAMERS throughout Georgia and beyond, and in Congress I'll fight for a system that's fair for all of us." (twitter.com)
Sen. Warnock, who’s just now unboxing materials as he moves into his new office, will be up for re-election in 2022. He won his 2020 runoff against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and he won at the same time as now-fellow Sen. Jon Ossoff, but Ossoff’s race was for a full six-year term.
The good news for Democrats is that Warnock was the stronger performer— he prevailed by 2.1% —better than Ossoff’s 1.2% and got almost 20,000 more raw votes—so he may be better positioned for an immediate encore performance.
Warnock’s 2020 opponent, Loeffler, has already indicated she will likely run against him. Former Rep. Doug Collins (R, GA-9), who ran in the special Senate primary but was squeezed out of the runoff, may run again as well. Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) has also been mentioned, as has first-term Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R, GA-14), who vocally occupies a space on the GOP caucus’ far-right. This race looks to be extremely competitive, as it was in 2020.
• Commitee on Armed Services
• Commitee on Energy and Natural Resources
• Commitee on Environmental and Public Works
• Joint Economic Commitee
• Special Committee on Aging