This article is part of a two-part series (2/2).
In a peculiar set of events, both of Georgia’s Senate seats are up for election this year, and the outcome of these two elections can determine the U.S. Senate majority. Currently, the split is 50-48 in favor of the Republican Party.
Usually, the state’s Senate seats are not both up for election in the same year, but this election cycle is different because former Sen. Johnny Isakson stepped down, citing “health challenges.”
None of the 20 candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot garnered more than 50% of the vote, so the top two candidates — Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler — will move to a runoff election that will occur on Jan. 5.
Examining the backgrounds, platforms and criticisms of the candidates will shine a light on what their election can mean for the Biden-Harris administration and the rest of the country.
Raphael Warnock’s background:
Rev. Raphael Warnock was born in Savannah, Georgia. He grew up in housing projects with 11 other siblings, yet he still believes that children “have it harder now than I did back then. That’s got to change.”
Warnock engaged with religion early on in his life, as both of his parents were Pentecostal preachers. Warnock attended Morehouse College to obtain his bachelor's degree, then he attended New York’s Union Theological Seminary, where he got his doctorate.
Warnock has a history of entangling his religious work with his political views. In 1990, when Warnock was an assistant pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church, he was outspoken against the work requirements that were part of New York City Mayor Giuliani’s welfare reform plans.
In 2005, Warnock became the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr.’s former congregation. With this prominent role, he used his platform to push for social justice on several fronts.
In 2011, he advocated for the clemency of Troy Davis and other death row inmates. In 2013, Warnock delivered the benediction for the public prayer at Barack Obama’s second inauguration. In 2014, Warnock led a sit-in demanding state legislatures accept the expansion of Medicaid offered by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In 2019, Warnock held an interfaith convention discussing the danger and importance of climate change.
Warnock has shown over and over his commitment to standing up for his beliefs, no matter the expense, including arrest. It is because of this he claims he brings “the concerns of struggling Georgia families” to Congress.
Raphael Warnock’s platform:
Environment: Rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, invest in a slew of protections for Georgia’s coast lines — green infrastructure, structural reinforcement and climate science — and create new jobs for marginalized communities by transitioning to clean energy.
Criminal justice: Reduce mass incarceration by reforming the bail system, ending private prisons and providing resources and support to criminals who are re-entering society.
Education: Invest in a universal preschool system, strengthen nutritional programs in schools and reduce costs for students attending higher education.
Health care: Expand Medicare, give the federal government the ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and protect people with pre-existing conditions. As it relates to COVID-19, Warnock has said he will fight to increase contact tracing and mandate mask-wearing.
Criticisms of Raphael Warnock:
Prior to the Nov. 3 election, Warnock faced relatively little attack advertising because Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins were focusing on criticizing each other. However, in the past few weeks, Republican groups have turned their attention to controversies from Warnock’s past.
In 2011, Warnock was quoted as saying “nobody can serve God and the military,” which has been recently pointed out by his Republican opponent. The Warnock campaign said people are taking this sermon out of context: Warnock was discussing the biblical verse “no man can serve two masters,” and was making the argument that people need “to commit to moral life before pursuing other priorities.”
Another controversy Warnock faces is his support for Rev. Jeremiah Wright, President Barack Obama’s former pastor, who has expressed radical views that include calling Israel an illegal state; proclaiming that instead of saying “God bless America,” citizens should say “God damn America”; and blaming the U.S. government for creating AIDS to kill African Americans.
Warnock denied accusations from Kelly Loeffler that he defends antisemitic statements. Warnock instead said Loeffler is trying to “engage in the same old Washington politics of division and distraction.”
The Democratic Senate candidate also has ties with another radical pastor, James Hal Cone, who has called white Christians “satanic” and wants the “destruction of everything white.” While Warnock has not directly encouraged those statements, he has praised Cone in his 2013 book and called him someone of “magnitude and power and commitment” in his 2018 eulogy.
Warnock is also generally criticized for having too-progressive viewpoints. Loeffler has released an ad blitz insinuating Warnock is a socialist. If elected, Warnock will be among the most progressive senators in Georgia's history.
Kelly Loeffler’s background:
Born in Illinois, Kelly Loeffler was raised on her family’s corn and soybean farm. She went to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned her bachelor of science in marketing.
After graduating, she worked as a district manager for Toyota. In 1999, Loeffler got her master of business administration from DePaul University. Loeffler worked for a slew of different companies including Citibank, William Blair & Company and the Crossroads Group.
Kelly Loeffler’s 2020 platform:
Immigration: Strengthen immigration laws. Loeffler believes the United States has been “tolerating illegal immigration,” which she says harms the nation’s sovereignty.
Health care: Implement reforms that will “lower health care costs, empower patients with more choice and increase access to quality care.” She does not believe in expanding government health care or increasing government power in the health care industry, but does not provide a concrete alternative that will lower health care costs.
Economy: Decrease regulations across the board in order to produce more jobs. She also advocates for a tough-on-China approach that will keep production-based jobs in the U.S., keeping them from going to China.
Education: Loefller believes that increasing school choice options will lead to a better and more competitive education system for all students. She has introduced the “Choice for Every Child Act,” which will especially help low-income and disabled students get vouchers for school choice.
Criticisms of Kelly Loeffler:
In her short duration as a senator, Loeffler has already been caught up in several scandals. After receiving a confidential briefing about COVID-19 in early March, Loefller made more than $20 million in trades by selling stocks and investing in companies that produce personal protective equipment.
Although the Senate Ethics Committee has stated it did not find evidence of Loeffler violating the law, Republican Doug Collins and Democrat Raphael Warnock have said it was unethical for Loeffler to profit off the pandemic.
Loeffler has since bragged about her cleared status in an ad, which has raised more eyebrows at her the validity of her acquital in the public sphere. Furthermore, she stepped down from the Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade, which adds to suspicions of wrongdoing.
Loeffler has also been criticized for her wealth. She has an approximate net worth of about $800 million and is invested in several big corporations. As a senator, she oversees commodities markets as a part of the Agricultural Committee.
Some of the markets she oversees are owned by Intercontinental Exchange, which her husband is the CEO of. Her direct relation with the CEO of the company she is involved with overseeing brings up another potential corruption concern.
Like Warnock, Loeffler has her share of relationships with radical people. She celebrated an endorsement for Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has a history of making racist comments and is a QAnon supporter who believes President Donald Trump is fighting a “cabal of Satanist child-molesting Democrats.”
With control for the Senate at stake, Georgians have to make a decision between conservatism and progressivism. The results of this election will have a significant impact on the Biden-Harris administration’s ability to appoint Cabinet members, appoint judges and pass legislation.