A Democratic Twist in Georgia


Warnock topples Loeffler in Georgia, and Ossoff has momentum as the final votes are being tallied. It’s Wednesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Domonique Walker brought her children with her yesterday to a polling place at Henry Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga.

GARDEN CITY, Ga. — There have been so few Black Democrats elected to the Senate that when Vice President-elect Kamala Harris campaigned for the Rev. Raphael Warnock in Savannah this week, the pairing spoke volumes, even if unintentionally, about racial representation in statewide office.

In purely partisan terms, a leader of the Democratic Party was seeking to rally voters in an important Senate runoff election, the results of which will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the chamber. But it was also a rare chance for one Senate barrier breaker to pass the torch to a man she hoped would be another. Harris was the first Black woman and woman of color to serve as a senator from California. Warnock was seeking to become the first Black senator from Georgia.

During his speech at the event with Harris, Warnock described being arrested by police officers at the U.S. Capitol during protests and political action over the years.

“I wasn’t mad at them. They were doing their job and I was doing my job,” Warnock said. “But in a few days I’m going to meet those Capitol Hill police officers again and this time they will not be taking me to central booking. They can help me find my new office.”

Warnock’s ultimate success in the early hours of Wednesday was a fitting culmination to an election cycle in which, hours after Joe Biden was declared the president-elect, he told Black voters in his victory speech, “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

It was also a generational breakthrough for Southern Black Democrats.

Warnock, 51, the pastor who took the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, spoke on the campaign trail about his life experiences as a Black man born and raised in the South. He ran for office in a state where people in predominantly Black neighborhoods waited in disproportionately long lines to vote last year, and where one study found that more than 80 percent of the residents hospitalized for the coronavirus in the state were Black — vestiges of systemic racism in the democratic and health care systems.

Political power in the former Jim Crow South, where few Black Americans have been elected to statewide office, is inextricably linked to race. And Warnock’s place in the political universe is distinct from the election of Harris, or Northerners like former President Barack Obama, previously a senator from Illinois, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Together, Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the other Democratic candidate, have the chance to expand Biden’s legislative agenda. But Warnock alone was seeking to overcome a barrier reinforced in the South over and over again, crystallized in a saying that become popular during the civil rights movement: “The South doesn’t care how close a Negro gets, just so he doesn’t get too high.”

Read the rest of this profile of Warnock here.

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