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Georgia Runoff Election

Who is Raphael Warnock and why is his Senate election historic?

Raphael Warnock is now predicted to have won the Senate seat in Georgia off Republican Kelly Loeffler, why is his win so significant in the state?

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Who is Rev. Raphael Warnock and why is his Senate election historic?
JIM WATSON AFP

Warnock was declared the victor by the Associated Press in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Shortly after 4am ET, as counting continued, he had 50.6% of the vote with a lead of roughly 53,000 over Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler.

Meanwhile, his fellow Democrat, 33 year old Jon Ossoff narrowly leads over incumbent David Perdue, with over 16,000 votes and 98% of the votes counted. At the time of writing this race was still too close to call.

Who is Reverend Raphael Warnock?

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Baptist Reverend Warnock is 51 years old, and has lived in Georgia his entire life. He has been the senior pastor at a Baptist church in Georgia that is rooted deeply in the civil rights era. He grew up in public housing and was one of 12 children born to two Pentecostal pastors.

His father served in the Army during World War II and went on restore junk cars. In his victory speech Wednesday, he mentioned that his mother, now 82 years-old, used to “pick somebody else’s cotton.”

He came to political prominence leading a campaign to expand access to Medicaid in the state. He worked alongside Stacey Abrams to found the New Georgia Project, a 10-year iniciative to mobilise the young and minority vote in the state, credited for Biden's narrow win there in November.

Warnock stands for expanding the Affordable Care Act, increasing covid-19-relief funding and larger stimulus checks. He’s also a proponent of abortion rights and gay marriage.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of Dr Martin Luther King, Warnock achieved a doctorate in Philosophy and a masters in Divinity from a school linked to Columbia University. He has two children with ex-wife Oulèye Ndoye.

Why is Warnock’s Senate win historic?

As a major Southern state, Georgia played a major role in the national civil rights movement in the 1960’s. What’s more, Atlanta, Georgia was home to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and now Democrat soon-to-be Senator, Reverend Raphael Warnock is a preacher at church, the Ebenezer Baptist Church that was a spiritual home to Dr King.

In addition, Warnock has become the first black Senator to ever take office in the peach state. The win takes on a whole new significance for the progression of the nationwide, considering that now vice-president elect Kamala Harris was also the first black woman, and woman of colour to serve as a Senator in her state of California. She will be sworn in as vice-president on 20 January when Joe Biden takes office.

Warnock is now set to join only ten other African Americans who have ever served in the United States Senate. Three of those are currently serving in the 177th Congress, which Warnock will sworn into once his victory is certified. In comparison, only 58 women have ever served as Senators, 26 of them are currently serving. There have been a total of just under 2,000 Senators since it first convened in 1789. 

In a stark reminder of how much the US and in the state of Georgia has progressed in half a generation; when Raphael Warnock was born, the state of Georgia was represented in the Senate by two segregationists, one of whom was Herman Talmadge, a southern Democrat who opposed civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Warnock: “anything is possible”

Warnock posted a virtual speech following the call of his victory, stating “the other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.

"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," he told supporters.

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