The deep-voiced Baptist pastor who now sits in the chair where assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. preached has made history in his uphill battle to topple a sitting Republican to become Georgia’s first black US Senator .
The son of a sharecropper, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, who had never served in public office before, defeated Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy businesswoman appointed to the seat by President Donald Trump.
With 98% of the votes reported, Warnock collected 50.6% of the vote in a narrow victory over Loeffler’s 49.4%.
His victory puts the party’s Senate majority within reach, as votes are still counted in a Senate run-off between Democrat Jon Ossoff and incumbent Republican David Perdue.
“The four most powerful words in a democracy are ‘People have spoken’,” Warnock told media Wednesday morning.
Georgia, where about a third of the population is black, voted Democratic in the November presidential election for the first time since 1992 and is now poised to give Democrats control of the US Senate.
Warnock’s victory comes on the back of years of voter registration efforts, including attempts to hire residents of “New Georgia” – liberal immigrants and transplants from other states who have flocked to them. jobs in Atlanta.
In a speech to his supporters on Wednesday morning, Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the son of two Pentecostal preachers in Savannah, paid tribute to his mother Verlene Warnock, 82, who spent her summers in a farm in southern Georgia picking cotton and tobacco. in his youth.
“God bless her and God bless America,” he wrote on Twitter with a photo of her wearing an “I am a voter from Georgia” sticker.
“The hands of the 82-year-old who were picking someone else’s cotton went to the polls and chose his youngest son to be a United States Senator,” Warnock, the youngest of 12, said in a statement. video speech broadcast live to his supporters.
“So I come to you as a man who knows that the unlikely trip that brought me to this place at this historic moment in America could only have happened here,” he said.
Warnock, 51, has been running the church where King crossed for civil rights for 15 years. His victory over Loeffler, 49, the former CEO of Bakkt, a cryptocurrency trading platform, was considered a long shot just a few weeks ago.
Loeffler, a staunch supporter of Trump, has turned right in a campaign that divides. In an advertisement, Loeffler bragged about being more conservative than Attila the Hun and having a “100% Trump vote record.” She called the Black Lives Matter movement, which protests against police violence and racial injustice, a “Marxist” group. She accuses Warnock of being a radical.
Warnock, on the other hand, launched a humorous online advertising campaign featuring his pup and a warning that he is likely to face an increase in attack ads. One ad for “smear ads” ends with him throwing a plastic bag with dog droppings in the trash.
He told his supporters on Wednesday: “The fact that I’m in the United States Senate in a few days goes against so many expectations, but this is America and I want a youngster to watch. it knows that anything is possible. “