Warnock ascends to Georgia Senate seat in historic win; Democrats projected to take control

Senator-elect Raphael Warnock (screenshot from the Georgia Recorder)
Senator-elect Raphael Warnock (screenshot from the Georgia Recorder)

Democrat Raphael Warnock has won the special Senate election to replace former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, making him the first person of color to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate.

The Associated Press called the race for Warnock at 2 a.m. Wednesday. At that point, Warnock had already declared victory in brief comments shortly after midnight.

“I am honored by the faith that you have shown to me and I promise 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,” Warnock said.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler has not conceded. She told supporters gathered for a watch party that there were “a lot of votes out there,” The Associated Press reported from the event. “There is a path to victory and we’re staying on it,” she said.

As of early Wednesday morning, the votes were still being tallied and military and overseas ballots have until Friday to arrive at local election offices. Warnock held nearly a 36,000-vote lead.

Warnock’s win gives Democrats one of the two seats they need to deny the GOP majority status in the upper chamber. In Georgia’s other Senate race, Republican Sen. David Perdue appeared to have lost to Democrat Jon Ossoff, with the race not yet called by most news outlets on Wednesday morning, but both the New York Times’ Nate Cohn and David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report projecting that Ossoff would be the winner.

The two victories would give the Democrats control of both houses of Congress and the White House for the first time in 10 years. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) would no longer be majority leader, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking 50-50 ties in the evenly divided chamber.

Loeffler was appointed to the Senate a year ago after Isakson stepped down because of his declining health. Loeffler has closely aligned herself with President Donald Trump, appearing on stage with him at a Dalton rally Monday to share with the Trump faithful that she would object Wednesday to the presidential election results.

Warnock has been senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church since 2005, when, at 35, he became the youngest person to hold that title. The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., father of the civil rights icon, also served as senior pastor, and King Jr. preached there as his father’s co-pastor from 1960 until his assassination in 1968.

The Democrat often speaks of voting in spiritual terms, calling it a “kind of prayer for the kind of world we want to live in.” But his history behind the pulpit also became campaign fodder, with Republicans mining Warnock’s past sermons for clips that were featured prominently – and played frequently – in TV commercials.

The 51-year-old Savannah native grew up in Savannah’s Kayton Homes housing projects, the 11th of 12 children and the first in his family to attend college. He holds degrees from Morehouse College and Union Theological Seminary.

He put his humble upbringing at the center of his campaign, launching his campaign in an ad filmed at Kayton Homes.

“I come before you tonight as a man who knows that the improbably journey that led me to this moment in this historic moment in America could only happen here. We were told we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible,” Warnock said early Wednesday morning.

“May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold of the American dream,” he said.

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This piece originally appeared in the Georgia Recorder, and was updated by the Examiner at 8:15 am.