Raphael Warnock
Raphael Warnock official photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Georgia
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
Serving with Jon Ossoff
Preceded byKelly Loeffler
Personal details
Born
Raphael Gamaliel Warnock

(1969-07-23) July 23, 1969 (age 53)
Savannah, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Oulèye Ndoye
(m. 2016; div. 2020)
Children2
Residence(s)Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
EducationMorehouse College (BA)
Union Theological Seminary (MDiv, MPhil, PhD)
WebsiteSenate website
Personal
ReligionChristian
DenominationAmerican Baptist (ABCUSA), Progressive Baptist (PNBC)
ChurchEbenezer Baptist Church
Senior posting
PostSenior pastor (2005–present)

Raphael Gamaliel Warnock (born July 23, 1969) is an American pastor and politician serving as the junior United States senator from Georgia since 2021. A member of the Democratic Party, he assumed office on January 20, 2021.[1][2]

Since 2005, Warnock has been the senior pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church.[3] He was the senior pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church until 2005. Warnock came to prominence in Georgia politics as a leading activist in the campaign to expand Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act.

On January 30, 2020, Warnock announced his candidacy in Georgia's 2020 United States Senate special election, seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler. No candidate received a majority of the vote on election day, so Warnock faced Loeffler again in a January 5, 2021, runoff, which he won by more than 93,000 votes. On the same day, fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff won the runoff for Georgia's other Senate seat against Republican David Perdue. With these victories, the Democratic Party won control of the Senate for the first time since 2014.

Warnock and Ossoff are the first Democrats elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia since Zell Miller in 2000. Warnock is the first African American to represent Georgia in the Senate and the first Black Democrat to be elected to the Senate by a former state of the Confederacy.[4]

Early life and education

Warnock was born in Savannah, Georgia, on July 23, 1969.[5] He grew up in public housing as the eleventh of twelve children born to Verlene and Jonathan Warnock, both Pentecostal pastors.[6] His father served in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he learned automobile mechanics and welding, and subsequently opened a small car restoration business where he restored junked cars for resale.[7]

Warnock graduated from Sol C. Johnson High School in 1987,[8] and, having wanted to follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr., attended Morehouse College, from which he graduated cum laude in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.[9][10] He credits his participation in the Upward Bound program for making him college-ready, as he was able to enroll in early college courses through Savannah State University.[8][10] He then earned Master of Divinity, Master of Philosophy, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Union Theological Seminary, a school affiliated with Columbia University.[11][12][7]

Religious work

In the 1990s, Warnock served as the youth pastor and then assistant pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York.[13][14] While Warnock was pastor at Abyssinian, the church declined to hire workfare recipients as part of organized opposition to then-mayor Rudy Giuliani's workfare program.[15] The church also hosted Fidel Castro on October 22, 1995, while Warnock was the youth pastor there. There is no evidence Warnock was involved in that decision. His campaign, during the 2020-21 United States Senate special election in Georgia, refused to say whether Warnock attended the event.[16]

In the 2000s, Warnock was senior pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Warnock and an assistant minister were arrested and charged with obstructing a police investigation into suspected child abuse at a summer camp run by Warnock's church, Douglas Memorial Community Church. The police report called Warnock "extremely uncooperative and disruptive". Warnock had demanded that the counselors have lawyers present when being interviewed by police.[17][18] The charges were later dropped with the deputy state's attorney's acknowledgment that it had been a "miscommunication", adding that Warnock had aided the investigation and that prosecution would be a waste of resources.[19][20] Warnock said he was merely asserting that lawyers should be present during the interviews[21] and that he had intervened to ensure that an adult was present while a juvenile suspect was being questioned.[22]

In 2005, Warnock became senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Martin Luther King Jr.'s former congregation; he is the fifth and the youngest person to serve as Ebenezer's senior pastor since its founding.[8][23][24] Warnock has stated that he will continue in the post while serving in the Senate.[25]

As pastor, Warnock advocated for clemency for Troy Davis, who was executed in 2011.[26] In 2013, he delivered the benediction at the public prayer service at the second inauguration of Barack Obama.[27] After Fidel Castro died in 2016, Warnock told his church to pray for the Cuban people, calling Castro's legacy “complex, kind of like America's legacy is complex.”[16] In March 2019, Warnock hosted an interfaith meeting on climate change at his church, featuring Al Gore and William Barber II.[28]

In July 2020, Warnock presided at Representative John Lewis's funeral at Ebenezer Church.[29]

On Easter Sunday 2021, Warnock's Twitter account tweeted, "The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are a Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves." Some conservative Christians and political commenters criticized the tweet, including Benjamin Watson, Allie Beth Stuckey, and Jenna Ellis, who called it "heretical." The tweet was deleted that afternoon, with a spokesperson for Warnock saying, "the tweet was posted by staff and was not approved" but declining to say whether it reflected Warnock's beliefs.[30][31]

Political activism

Warnock with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in 2009
Warnock with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in 2009

Warnock came to prominence in Georgia politics as a leader in the campaign to expand Medicaid in the state.[32] In March 2014, Warnock led a sit-in at the Georgia State Capitol to press state legislators to accept the expansion of Medicaid offered by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[33] He and other leaders were arrested during the protest.[33][34] Warnock also actively campaigned for Georgia Democrats to increase outreach to low-income communities.[35] In 2015, Warnock considered running in the 2016 election for the United States Senate seat held by Johnny Isakson as a member of the Democratic Party.[36] He opted not to run.[37][38]

From June 2017 to January 2020, Warnock chaired the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan organization focused on voter registration.[39][23]

Warnock supports expanding the Affordable Care Act and has called for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.[40][32] He also supports increasing COVID-19-relief funding.[41] A proponent of abortion rights and gay marriage, he has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood.[42][43] He opposes the concealed carry of firearms, saying that religious leaders do not want guns in places of worship.[44] Warnock has long opposed the death penalty.[45]

U.S. Senate

Elections

Warnock campaigning for Senate in 2020
Warnock campaigning for Senate in 2020

2020–21

Main article: 2020–21 United States Senate special election in Georgia

In January 2020, Warnock decided to run in the 2020 special election for the United States Senate seat held by Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed after Johnny Isakson's resignation.[46] He was endorsed by Democratic senators Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, and Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Stacey Abrams, and former presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter.[47][23][48][49][50] Several players of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team Loeffler co-owned at the time, wore shirts endorsing Warnock in response to controversial comments Loeffler made about the Black Lives Matter movement.[51]

The closing argument of Warnock's campaign focused on the $2,000 stimulus payments that he and Ossoff would approve if they were elected, giving Democrats a Senate majority.[52]

In the January 5 runoff election, Warnock defeated Loeffler with 51% of the popular vote. With this victory, he made history by becoming the first Black senator from Georgia.[53] On January 7, Loeffler conceded to Warnock.[54] The election result was certified on January 19.[55] Unlike Ossoff, Warnock will have to defend his seat in 2022, when Isakson's term was originally set to expire, in order to win a full 6-year term from 2023 to 2029.[56]

2022

Main article: 2022 United States Senate election in Georgia

On January 27, 2021, Warnock announced that he would seek election to a full term in 2022.[57]

Tenure

Warnock outside his Senate office, shortly after being sworn in
Warnock outside his Senate office, shortly after being sworn in
Senator Warnock (grey necktie, behind President Biden) during the signing of Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, June 17, 2021
Senator Warnock (grey necktie, behind President Biden) during the signing of Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, June 17, 2021

On January 20, 2021, Warnock was sworn into the United States Senate in the 117th Congress by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Warnock voted to convict former president Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Capitol riots on February 13, 2021.[58]

On March 5, 2021, he co-sponsored an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, along with 29 other Democratic and Independent senators.[59]

On March 17, 2021, he delivered his first speech on the Senate floor, in support of the passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.[60]

Committee assignments

Warnock has been assigned to the following committees for the 117th United States Congress:[61]

Caucuses

Political positions

Warnock speaks on a COVID relief bill in 2021
Warnock speaks on a COVID relief bill in 2021

As a U.S. senator, Warnock has embraced a progressive agenda.[62] As of June 2022, Warnock had voted in line with President Joe Biden's stated position 95.5% of the time.[63]

Abortion

Warnock has described himself as a "pro-choice pastor".[64]

In December 2020, during Warnock's Senate campaign, a group of 25 Black ministers wrote him an open letter asking him to reconsider his abortion stance, calling it "contrary to Christian teachings" and saying abortion disproportionately affects African Americans. The Warnock campaign responded with a statement, writing that "Warnock believes a patient's room is too small a place for a woman, her doctor, and the US government and that these are deeply personal health care decisions - not political ones."[65]

Warnock called the June 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade "misguided" and "devastating for women and families in Georgia and nationwide."[66]

Capital punishment and criminal justice

Warnock opposes the death penalty. He unsuccessfully attempted to stop death row inmate Troy Davis's execution.[67]

Gun control

Warnock received a grade of "F" from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund during his Senate campaign. The NRA accused him of supporting the criminalization of private gun transfers and banning standard issue magazines, and endorsed Loeffler.[68] In 2014, Warnock gave a sermon in which he criticized Georgia's gun laws, saying that "somebody decided that they had the bright idea to pass a piece of legislation that would allow guns and concealed weapons to be carried in churches. Have you ever been to a church meeting?... Whoever thought of that had never been to a church meeting."[69] The NRA tweeted out the video, adding the caption "Rev. Warnock, Law-Abiding Americans Defending Themselves is No Laughing Matter". The NRA added that "LAUGHING at church-goers who defend themselves with guns. First Warnock goes after our veterans, now our Second Amendment."[70]

Immigration

Warnock criticized Trump's "shithole countries" comment in 2018 and his subsequent signing of a proclamation honoring Martin Luther King Jr., saying, "I would argue that a proclamation without an apology is hypocrisy. There is no redemption without repentance and the president of the United States needs to repent."[71]

Warnock also has supported keeping Title 42 expulsions, saying, "We need assurances that we have security at the border and that we protect communities on this side of the border."[72]

LGBT rights

Warnock supports the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and sexual orientation.[73]

Supreme Court

Warnock twice declined to answer when asked whether he supported "packing the Supreme Court" by adding additional justices during a December 2020 debate.[74]

Voting rights

In his maiden speech on the U.S. Senate floor, Warnock said one of his primary goals upon assuming office was to oppose voting restrictions and support federal voting reforms.[75] He has said that passing legislation to expand voting rights is important enough to end the Senate filibuster.[62][76]

On March 17, 2021, Warnock said in a Senate floor speech that voting rights were under attack at a rate not seen since the Jim Crow era.[77][78] On April 20, 2021, Warnock and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and For the People Act. He was again critical of the new election laws passed in his home state, calling it a "full-fledged assault on voting rights, unlike anything we seen since the era of Jim Crow."[79] He is not opposed to voter ID laws, but criticizes them when they discriminate against certain groups.[80][81]

Welfare

Warnock opposed New York mayor Rudy Giuliani's workfare reforms while he was assistant pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church. In 1997, he told The New York Times, "We are worried that workfare is being used to displace other workers who receive respectable compensation...We are concerned that poor people are being put into competition with other poor people, and in that respect, we think workfare is a hoax".[82]

Personal life

Warnock lives in Atlanta.[83] He married Oulèye Ndoye in a public ceremony on February 14, 2016; the couple had held a private ceremony in January.[9][84] They have two children. The couple separated in November 2019, and their divorce was finalized in 2020.[13]

In March 2020, Ndoye accused Warnock of running over her foot with his car during a verbal argument. Warnock denied the accusation, and medical professionals found no signs of injury.[85][86] In February 2022, Ndoye asked the court to modify their child custody agreement, granting her "additional custody of their two young children so she can complete a Harvard University program", and for a recalculation of child support payments.[87]

Electoral history

U.S. Senate

2020–21 United States Senate special election in Georgia[88]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Raphael Warnock 1,617,035 32.90
Republican Kelly Loeffler (incumbent) 1,273,214 25.91
Republican Doug Collins 980,454 19.95
Democratic Deborah Jackson 324,118 6.60
Democratic Matt Lieberman 136,021 2.77
Democratic Tamara Johnson-Shealey 106,767 2.17
Democratic Jamesia James 94,406 1.92
Republican Derrick Grayson 51,592 1.05
Democratic Joy Felicia Slade 44,945 0.91
Republican Annette Davis Jackson 44,335 0.90
Republican Kandiss Taylor 40,349 0.82
Republican Wayne Johnson (withdrawn) 36,176 0.74
Libertarian Brian Slowinski 35,431 0.72
Democratic Richard Dien Winfield 28,687 0.58
Democratic Ed Tarver 26,333 0.54
Independent Allen Buckley 17,954 0.37
Green John Fortuin 15,293 0.31
Independent Al Bartell 14,640 0.30
Independent Valencia Stovall 13,318 0.27
Independent Michael Todd Greene 13,293 0.27
Total votes 4,914,361 100.0
2021 United States Senate special election in Georgia runoff[89]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Raphael Warnock 2,289,113 51.04% +10.00%
Republican Kelly Loeffler (incumbent) 2,195,841 48.96% -5.84%
Total votes 4,484,954 100.0%
Democratic gain from Republican

Publications

External video
video icon After Words interview with Warnock on A Way Out of No Way, June 26, 2022, C-SPAN

See also

References

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Party political offices Preceded byJim Barksdale Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Georgia(Class 3) 2020, 2022 Most recent U.S. Senate Preceded byKelly Loeffler U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia 2021–present Served alongside: Jon Ossoff Incumbent U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byJon Ossoffas United States Senator from Georgia Order of precedence of the United States as United States Senator from Georgia since January 20, 2021 Succeeded byAlex Padillaas United States Senator from California United States senators by seniority 100th Last