Just as Rev. Ralph Warnock predicted last week, Sen. Kelly Loeffler unleashed a torrent of attacks on the Georgia Democrat as the two face off in a crucial senatorial race that could determine the balance of power in the Senate.
Following the lead of conservatives around the country, Loeffler baselessly accused her Democratic opponent of “Marxist ideology” and characterized him as being part of the “radical left.” As CNN reports, in a recent attack ad, Loeffler contrasted two different versions of America: one, in which young students dutifully recited the pledge of allegiance, and one in which Democrats control the Senate. The latter vision of America was punctuated with footage of “defund the police” signs, mobs, and a quote from a 2015 sermon Warnock gave after Michael Brown was fatally shot by a Missouri cop, saying that some officers have a “gangster and thug mentality.”
“What you need to know is in our own communities, he doesn’t care about the things we care about,” Loeffler said about Warnock.
For much of the last year, Loeffler has focused her attacks on her conservative challenger, Doug Collins, who tried to position himself to the right of her. But since none of the candidates in the special election for Loeffler’s seat amassed a large enough percentage of the vote, she and Warnock, the top two vote-getters in the race, will have their sights set on each other from now until the January 5 runoff election.
It is likely to be an ugly—and expensive—race.
Already, Republicans have circulated a video of Warnock, who leads Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, alongside former Cuban President Fidel Castro. The video was taken at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City in 1995, where Warnock served as a youth pastor at the time.
He clarified this week that he had nothing to do with inviting the Cuban communist leader.
Warnock anticipated the tone of Loeffler’s campaign last week, releasing a humorous video warning voters of the kinds of ridiculous accusations they could expect to hear from the senator, who has effectively weaponized her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement to curry favor among Georgia conservatives.
“Raphael Warnock once stepped on a crack in a sidewalk. Raphael Warnock hates puppies,” a sinister-sound voice growls.
Warnock blamed Loeffler’s attacks on a lack of policy ideas, focusing his appeals to voters on healthcare and wages.
“If you don’t really have an agenda for working families, I guess you have to distract working families,” the reverend said in Atlanta on Thursday. “I intend to stay focused on making sure that every Georgian has access to affordable health care, that workers share in some of the profits that they’re creating and that they are able to retire with dignity.”
Warnock has led the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church since 2005. In the 15 years since, he has focused his advocacy on criminal justice and expanding voter registration and Medicaid, CNN reports. While Warnock has advocated for “equal protection under the law,” he does not support defunding the police, and says he has “deep respect” for law enforcement.
If he wins his race against Loeffler, it will be the first Senate seat a Democrat has won in the state of Georgia since 200o. But he won’t be the Democrat’s only shot—Sen. David Perdue is attempting to defend his seat against Democrat Jon Ossoff in another run-off race this January. If both Warnock and Ossoff win their respective races next year, Democrats would secure a majority in the Senate, a monumental shift that would give the party power over both the executive and legislative branches. This means we can expect to see a lot more negative ads—and a lot more money being spent—in the state before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated next year.