Democrat Raphael Warnock has won one U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, the Associated Press reported early Wednesday, leaving control of the chamber in question until the result of the state’s other runoff election is decided.
Warnock, a pastor and voting rights activist, will be Georgia’s first Black senator. He defeated Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who has not conceded.
In a video statement released a few hours before the race was called, Warnock referred to his humble beginnings in the “Kayton Homes housing projects of Savannah, Georgia” as one of 12 children.
“So, I stand before you as a man who knows that the improbable journey that led me to this place in this historic moment in America could only happen here.”
A winner has not been called in a second Georgia Senate runoff between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. To gain control of the Senate, and bolster President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda, Democrats will need to win both seats. In that race, Ossoff held a narrow edge, according to an AP tally early Wednesday morning.
The runoff contests took place in the stormy wake of the presidential election, with President Donald Trump repeatedly making unproven accusations of fraud. He narrowly lost Georgia to Biden, and both Senate candidates found themselves pulled into the drama over the previous election.
Warnock, 51, is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a post once held by Martin Luther King Jr. He ran on a platform of increased access to health care, expanding Medicaid, and protecting voting rights. He painted Loeffler, the richest member of Congress, as out of touch.
Loeffler was appointed by Governor Brian Kemp to replace Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired for health reasons. She is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chief executive officer of the Intercontinental Exchange Inc., the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, who recently became a billionaire. She had repeatedly portrayed Warnock as “radical liberal” who didn’t share Georgia values and would steer the country toward socialism.
Warnock will now fill the remaining two years of Isakson’s term.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and a Ph.D from Union Theological Seminary. He was an assistant pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York and senior pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, before coming to Ebenezer Baptist in 2005. A center for activism on behalf of the Black community, the church is a must-stop for national politicians.
The races for both Senate were forced runoffs after no candidate secured more than 50% of the vote in the November election. Warnock’s victory ends a more than 30-year losing streak for Democrats in statewide runoffs.