August 24, 2020 – It will all come down to the Democratic turnout on Nov. 3, and the strength of Biden’s coattails, it appears, for whether Georgia voters will even have the opportunity to vote for a Democrat as U.S. Senator in an expected Jan. 5, 2021 run-off election in the U.S. Senate Special Election to be held Nov. 3 to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Georgia has not had a Democratic U.S. Senator since Max Clelland’s term ended 18 years ago, in 2003, and a long list of Democrats have qualfied in the upcoming race. But, there is a long list of Republicans, as well, with the possibility that a Democrat will not make the run-off. With all the issues facing Georgia, the lack of political discourse about critical issues that a U.S. Senator can fight for will be a loss if no Democratic makes the runoff.
The leading Democratic candidate in the Nov. 3 Special Election is Reverend Raphael Warnock from Atlanta, who grew up in Kayton Homes public housing in Savannah. He held a virtual press conference Monday with local media as he continues his campaign to make the runoff to unseat Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
Currently, Sen. Kelly Loeffler is in the seat, appointed eight months ago in January by Gov. Brian Kemp.
Savannah Democratic activist Rosemary Mackey introduced Warnock at the press conference, focusing on Georgia’s low national rankings on statewide healthcare programs for residents - Georgia is ranked 47th in the U.S. – and Warnock’s record on healthcare activism. He is currently the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
There are 21 Republican and Democrats who have qualified for the Special Election, with no one expected to receive 50%, based on a number of recent polls. Among the Republicans in the race, Loeffler has been facing a serious challenge by Congressman Doug Collins who has been running neck-and-neck with her, both coming in at about 20 % to 22% of the vote.
Loeffler is leading the field of 21 candidates in fundraising for the entire election cycle, with Warnock coming in second. However, Warnock has outraised Collins, and has outraised both Loeffler and Collins in the last two reporting quarters, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been the only Democratic buying television ads in the race, the AJC also reported.
Warnock is leading the Democrats in the field in the latest polls, but he has been reported to be in third or fourth place behind Loeffler, Collins and Libertarian Matt Lieberman in several recent polls, though polling numbers have varied widely.
Collins is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. If he loses the race, he will be out of Congress. He entered the race after a split within the Georgia Republican party – many in leadership had urged Kemp to appoint Collins to Isakson’s open seat versus Loeffler.
Collins has held his seat since 2013, but has never been tested in a statewide race, and comes from a North Georgia district that is 87% white.
Rev. Warnock began his remarks by stating that healthcare is a human right, and that “Georgia needs a Senator who will stand up for healthcare at the Federal level.”
He attacked both Loeffler and Collins in the press conference. “Collins right now has refused to allow for the negotiation of prescription drugs. He is resisting that right now, to allow the negotiation of the price of prescription drugs at the Federal level.”
He also said that there is legislation before the U.S. Senate to allow states another opportunity to expand Medicaid, under the CARES Act, which he would support if elected, though the decision on whether to expand Medicaid in Georgia iies with Governor Kemp and the Republican-controlled General Assembly. "the failure to expand Medicaid in Georgia is straining the state and the local economies in Georgia. Georgia has 500,000 in the Medicaid gap," he added.
“Kelly Loeffler has not offered a word of opposition to the Trump Administration’s efforts to get rid of Affordable Healthcare,” Warnock also stated, “and went on vacation without providing the means that people needed.”
His campaign bio states that his Savannah family, “was short on money, but long on faith, love and humor. Raphael and his eleven brothers and sisters were taught the meaning of hard work." He is expected to carry Savannah's democratic vote.
When asked how he was going to win a statewide race in Georgia as a Democrat, with Trump currently leading Biden in the latest polls, he responded, “Polls go up and polls go down. But in the June 6 primary, 1.3 million Democrats showed up. Less than a million Republicans showed up. We outperformed them in six Congressional Districts,” he pointed out.
“It is clear that Brian Kemp put his finger on the scale, yet he barely scrimped by,” with Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams losing the race for Governor in 2018 by only 55,000 votes, Warnock added.
He also noted that since that election, there have been 750,000 new voters registered, of which 49% are people of color, and a high percentage are under 30 years of
“The wind is at our back, and to the degree that we can level the playing field of voter suppression,” he believes that Democrats can prevail.