By Ashley Moss
Rev. Raphael Warnock made history on January 5th becoming Georgia’s first Black senator. In a closely watched competition, the Morehouse College graduate eked out a victory over incumbent senator Kelly Loeffler in the special election for the U.S. Senate, with nearly 51 percent of the vote. The reverend is the first Georgia Democrat elected to the Senate in 20 years. Warnock and Loeffler, as well as Sen. David Perdue and challenger Jon Ossoff returned to the ring in January after neither candidate reached 50 percent of the vote in the November general election. In that crowded race, Warnock finished with 32.9 percent of the vote and Loeffler had 25.9 percent.
Warnock serves as senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was co-pastor from 1960 until his assassination in 1968. It was also the location of the funerals of both Dr. King and the late congressman John Lewis. Warnock has never held public office, but in a message to his supporters late Tuesday night the Senator-elect said his victory was an immediate reflection of Georgia voters coming together. “We were told that we couldn’t win this election,” said Rev. Warnock, who presented a message of harmony and unity as he talked about his plans as senator. “But tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
The Senator-elect will succeed Loeffler, who conceded to Warnock in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection. Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate in December 2019 after then-Republican senator Johnny Isakson resigned for health reasons, is also co-owner of The Atlanta Dream women’s basketball team, with whom she has frequently been at odds due to her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. She garnered 49.4 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s tightly contested race.
In the upcoming term, Warnock said his focus will be on the pandemic, saying he’d focus on bringing people together, for the good of the state of Georgia and the country. He also cited beating the pandemic with “science and good old-fashioned common sense,” rebuilding the economy and providing better benefits for essential workers among his priorities. “To everyone out there who is struggling today, whether you voted for me or not, know this: I hear you, I see you, and every day I am in the United States Senate, I will fight for you,” he said. Warnock and Ossoff will assume office later this month after the results of the election are certified. Once he is sworn in, Warnock is also set to become just the 11th African American to serve in the U.S. Senate. With the Warnock and Ossoff wins, the balance of power in Congress will change, giving Democrats control over the Senate and clearing the way for an unobstructed agenda once President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.