“ Good Trouble” 2022 – Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock, Heir to Cong. John Lewis, Wins His Georgia Senate Election Runoff December 11, 2022
“Good trouble.” That was the phrase that the late Atlanta, GA Democratic Congressmember John Lewis was best remembered for. Lewis had served in the House since 1987, after decades of work as an organizer and activist in in the civil rights movement. Lewis initially became known as a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He organized the 8/1963 March on Washington along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and served on the Atlanta City Council. Lewis was a gifted orator and his words inspired action by people in many generations. Lewis’ skull was fractured by state troopers in 1965 on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL during a peaceful demonstration to protest the lack of voting rights for Blacks. In 6/2018, Lewis tweeted: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful , be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in ‘good trouble,’ necessary trouble (Bote, USA Today, 6/19/20).” “Good trouble” for Lewis meant taking on hostile segregationist Southerners and making his case to Northern whites to break down Jim Crow barriers in every way possible. Lewis died at age 80 of pancreatic cancer (USA Today, Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac). Cong. Lewis’ funeral service, a very emotional/tear jerking memorial, was held in the historic Atlanta Ebenezer Baptist Church. That church was where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father had preached. Lewis’ 2020 funeral service was presided over by Ebenezer Baptist’s senior pastor Rev. Raphael Warnock (Raymond, J., 7/30/20, 11 alive.com). Rev. Raphael Warnock has put the late Cong. Lewis’ words about getting in “good trouble” into action. Warnock went from the pulpit and demonstrations into politics where he does his utmost to carry out civil rights activism and represent the state of GA. Democratic Rev. Warnock became the first African American to represent GA in the Senate. He won retiring GOPer Johnny Isakson’s seat in 1/2021 by defeating GOPer Kelly Loeffler in a special election runoff. With this victory, Warnock served the last two remaining years of Isakson’s term. On 12/06/2022, Rev. Warnock won a full six-year term of his own when he defeated GOPer Herschel Walker in a runoff (Cohen & Cook, 2022, cnn.com, nytimes.com, 12/06/22). Let’s look at Sen. Warnock, his 12/2022 runoff race, and what it means.
Senator/Rev. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock (53) was born and grew up in Savannah. He lived in public housing. He was the eleventh of twelve children. Both of his parents Jonathan and Verlene Warnock were black Pentecostal pastors (sav.com/news, 2/15/16, Lewis, R, google.com). Warnock’s late father, a WWII veteran, also ran a small car restoration business where he restored junk cars for resale (Jealous, B. & Shorters, T., 2/03/15, books.google.com). Warnock wanted to follow in Dr. King’s footsteps and attended King’s alma mater, Morehouse College. At Morehouse, Warnock earned an undergraduate psychology degree. He received a Master of Divinity, Master of Philosophy, and Doctor of Philosophy from Union Theological Seminary, affiliated with NY’s Columbia University (Woods, A., newsone.com, 1/30/20). After serving in pulpits in NY and MD, Rev. Warnock became, in 2005, the fifth and youngest person to serve as Ebenezer’s pastor since its founding (Dewan, S., 105/21, Cohen & Cook 2022).
Warnock became politically known for his “good trouble” activism when he led the campaign to expand Medicare in GA under Obamacare. In 3/2014, Rev. Warnock lead a sit-in at the GA State Capitol to push the legislature to accept the expansion of Medicaid. He was arrested along with other protest leaders (ajc.com, Davis, J., 3/18/14). In 2017, Warnock took his “good trouble” to the U.S. Capitol. He was arrested there for protesting against GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare (Cohen & Cook, 2022). From 6/2017-1/2020, Rev. Warnock made additional “good trouble” by chairing the New Georgia Project, the voter registration group that activist Stacey Abrams had founded (valdostatoday.com, 6/08/17).
Warnock next took his “good trouble” to running for political office, when as previously noted, GOP Sen. Isakson retired in 2019. In the 11/ 2020 special election , Warnock was one of 20 candidates running for that seat, regardless of party. Under GA law, if no candidate wins 50% of the vote, the top two face each other in a runoff. Warnock won 32.90% of the vote to Loeffler’s 25.91 % (GA 2020 General Election Official Results). In the 1/05/2021 special election runoff, Warnock defeated Loeffler 51.04%- 48.96%, by just 90,000 votes. On that same day, Dem. Jon Ossoff also won his runoff for a full six-year term against incumbent Sen. David Perdue who was going for his second term. Because of Ossoff’s and Warnock’s victories, along with Joe Biden’s election, the Democrats won control of the Senate by a 50-50 margin, with VP Kamala Harris as legislative tie-breaker (Cohen & Cook 2022, latimes.com, Jarvie, J., 12/06/22 W).
In the Senate, Warnock was appointed to the influential Agriculture, Banking, and Commerce Committees. He also sits on the Special Aging and Joint Economic Committees (CQ 117th Cong. At Your Fingertips, Cohen & Cook, 2022). During his first two years in the upper chamber, Sen. Warnock has been a strong progressive and has voted in line with Pres. Biden’s positions 96% of the time (projects.fivethirtyeight.com, Bycoffe, A. & Silver, N.). Warnock describes himself as a “pro-choice pastor.” He called the 6/2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade “misguided and devastating (theatlantic.com, twitter.com, 6/245/22).” He opposes the death penalty (washingtonpost.com, Scott, E., 1/06/21). He is a strong supporter of infrastructure and has helped GA get much needed help in this area. He favors raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour (Ford, 3/06/21WXIA-TV, 11 Alive, AP NEWS, 6/13/21). He voted to codify same-sex and interracial marriage, a bill supported by President Biden (Mitchell, T., ajc.com, 11/24/22, latimes.com, Jalonick,12/09/22). Sen./Rev. Warnock has made protecting voting rights a chief priority of his, “good trouble.” His first speech that he gave on the Senate floor made that very clear. He stated that one of his primary goals upon assuming office was to oppose voting restrictions and support federal voting reforms. He called passing legislation to expand voting rights important enough to end a filibuster (npr.org, Kelly, M.L., 2/11/22). Warnock additionally wrote the provision in the Inflation Adjustment Act that capped insulin prices for Medicare patients (latimes.com, Jarvie, 12/06/22).
And who was Sen. Warnock’s 2022 opponent? Why none other than Herschel Walker. And how did he earn his nomination? Well, via “the good old fashioned GOP cult of personality way.” He was handpicked by none other than Demagogue Donald, the key to locking in the rabid MAGA base. What are Walker’s “qualifications?” Two “y uu ge” ones in GOP World. First of all, like Warnock, Walker’s Black. According to GOP “thinking,” you look “smart” and like you care (LOL) for People of Color if you put a Black nominee against your Democratic black opponent. Why, you might be able to peel off some of the African American voters Democrats usually get, and in a close race, give Republicans victory. GOPers claim that when they put up a Black candidate against a Democratic Black, they are not “pandering.” Get real! Why would Blacks, who rightfully see the GOP as extremely hostile to them, suddenly vote for a Black GOPer? Many of them were embarrassed by the GOP’s “patronizing” them with such a stunt. And get this. Since Reagan’s gubernatorial and presidential victories, Republicans have believed that celebrity “trumps” (pun intended) everything. Get an actor, movie star, reality show big shot, or talk radio character and say that politics can be practiced by anyone. You don’t need any training. Huh? Would you get someone off the street to take out your appendix who never practiced medicine? Well, maybe Fox News GOP viewers would. However, millions of other Americans, not part of the GOP cult, reject such “thinking.” Most reasonable people would want to know just where the candidate stands on issues, how he/she speaks, how he/she appears in public, who his/her friends and associates are, and just what his/her experiences qualifiy them to be among 100 people in the Senate. Did these nominees live in the state they want to represent or suddenly “claimed” they were residents?
And what did Herschel Walker do prior to throwing his MAGA hat into the ring? Well, his sole claim to fame was that he was a football star as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia who won the Heisman Trophy and went on to a career in the pros. Even before Trump pushed Walker “Texas Resident” to run for the GA Senate seat, numerous GOP strategists warned Donald that Walker had tremendous political baggage. However, Demagogue Donald could have cared less. Once Donald gave his endorsement, Walker handily won a six-person primary, getting 68.18 % of the vote. His nearest rival took just 13.35% (GA-General Primary Special Election, 5/24/22). “Be careful what you wish for.” MAGA “dream” candidate Walker was a “walking” nightmare throughout both the 11/2022 election and the 12/2022 runoff. While Warnock stuck to emphasizing what he had already done for GA in his short two years in the Senate and what he planned to do if he won re-election, Walker talked about issues truly “vital” (NOT) to GA or anywhere else. He was a gaffe machine that could not be turned off. GOP big wigs like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had to “chaperone” Walker at his campaign appearances, which still didn’t help. Walker’s “issues” consisted of arguing if “werewolves were better than vampires.” He played the “s too pid” card by arguing, “What the heck is a pronoun? I’m sick and tired of this pronoun stuff.” Did Walker ever go to grammar school and learn parts of speech? Who was fighting a “war against pronouns” anyway? His comments about “bad air” from China affecting our environment and our “good air going to China” were beyond absurd (See Fowler, gpb.org, 7/12/22, Jarvie, latimes.com). Sen. Warnock ran ads highlighting Walker’s gibberish views and wacky word salad comments. In those ads, he had voters who went for the rest of the GOP ticket stating why they couldn’t vote for someone as unqualified as Walker (latimes.com, Jarvie, 12/06/22). Walker was a “two threat” dagger aimed at his fellow GOPers. Besides his off-the-wall incomprehensible views, Walker was plagued by major scandals. “Family values—I want a national abortion ban” Walker was charged by multiple women he impregnated of encouraging them to get abortions. He was accused of holding a gun to an ex-wife’s head. He lied about his education and career by claiming he had worked for law enforcement (remember his debate fake badge?). The real record showed that Walker, who claimed he was in the “top 1%” of his college graduating class, never graduated from college (latimes.com, Jarvie, 12/06/22, latimes.com, Calmes, 12/08/22). Jason Shepherd, assistant Political Science Professor at GA’s Kennesaw State University and former Cobb County GOP chair, put it in words that maybe Walker could understand. According to Shepherd, “It’s been too many unenforced errors, too many penalty flags on Herschel Walker (latimes.com, Jarvie).”
For most of the campaign, Walker was a strong 2020 election denier. He was all into conspiracy theories about how Biden had not won that presidential election. He supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 results. In 7/2022, he stated he had “no clue” whether Biden had fairly defeated Trump in GA . He called the 1/06/2021 attempted D.C. coup a “well planned distraction from election fraud (See, Rogers & Raju, 4/22/21, cnn.com, Ford, onlineathens.com).” When Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talked of the GOP probably not retaking the Senate because of (questionable) “candidate recruitment,” it was obvious that Walker was one of the Trump-anointed people he had in mind. Even so, in Deep South GA, where rural whites have heavily switched to the GOP and adore Trump, Warnock only received 49.44% of the vote to Walker’s 48.49% in the 11/08/2022 midterm election. Warnock and Walker were, I must repeat, forced into the 12/06/2022 runoff since Warnock didn’t clear the 50% hurdle (See U.S. Sen. Election, GA). GOP tribalism is so bad today that if its nominee was “Baby Shark,” it could win or make a race of it if an “R” was put after its name!
On 12/06/2022, in another nail biter, Dem. Sen./Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated GOPer Herschel Walker 51.4% v. 48.6%, a mere difference of 2.8% in the runoff (AP, google.com). Warnock won by getting strong turnout in the Democratic strongholds of metro Atlanta, the key to GA Democratic victories. Walker underperformed in a swath of rural, mainly GOP counties. In some of those areas, Walker’s votes ran behind his 11/08/22 general election totals (latimes.com, Jarvie 12/06/22). Still, IMHO, those rural Trump GOP counties kept Walker awfully close to winning. Democrats spent $56 million on TV and radio ads for the runoff, more than the $26 million the GOP spent (Jarvie, latimes.com). However, the GOP name brand remains a plus in the rural Deep South. Democrats made sure they had a high early voting turnout especially among Blacks. Blacks made up 32% of the early voting total, making up a higher share of early voters than they did in the general election. GOPers vote more on election day, as Trump has told them to do. The white and older GOP crowd voted, as usual, in greater force on runoff day, 12/06/22 (Jarvie, latimes.com, 12/06/22). Still, to quote former basketball coach Phil Jackson, a “W” is a “W,” or a “win is a win.”
At his victory speech, Warnock paid tribute to black and white civil rights martyrs who fought and died for racial equality (cnn.com). He stated, “Thank you Georgia, we did it again (latimes.com, Jarvie, 12/06/22).” Warnock’s “we did it again” remains one big understatement. Since 11/2020, Warnock has had to win four consecutive GA Senate elections, several of them very close calls. His 12/06/22 runoff victory now gives President Biden and his Democrats a clear 51-49 Senate Majority, not a 50-50 tie. That tie required VP Kamala Harris to cast the third most tie-breaking votes of any VP since John Calhoun nearly 200 years ago. With a numerical majority in 2023, Senate Democrats can now have the majority on all its committees, not a power sharing agreement with the GOP. The Senate Judiciary Committee, now split 11 Ds v. 11 Rs will go to 12 Ds v. 10 Rs. Democratic Senators will now be able to keep GOPers from slowing down confirmation of Biden’s judicial nominees (cnn.com, 12/097/22). Sen. Democrats will now be able to issue subpoenas to investigate GOP misdoings. Democrats will be far less reliant on conservative Joe Manchin (D-WVA) who often held Biden’s agenda hostage. Of course,super-quirky AZ Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has decided to become an independent. However, right now, it looks like she will caucus with the Democrats and the new Senate balance won’t change (politico.com, kos.com, cnn.com, Herb, 12/09/22). Warnock’s win will help “Team Blue” defend several seats in “Red” areas in 2024 (cnn.com, 12/07/22).
Warnock’s 2022 runoff win and previous campaigns clearly indicate to many pundits that GA will be in play as a battleground state in many upcoming midterm and presidential elections. The Ossoff and Warnock 2021 Senatorial runoff wins were, therefore, no fluke. However, IMHO, it will be no easy task for “Team Blue” to keep winning in the Peach State. GOPers remain strong there. Except for Trump- tainted and sub-par candidate Walker, GOPers won the gubernatorial and other down ticket GA races. In a rematch, Stacey Abrams lost by 7.5 percentage points to Gov. Brian Kemp, a worse showing than her narrow loss to him in 2018 (See Cohen & Cook 2022, politico.com, 12/08/22). Demagogue Donald has shown that his endorsement of most candidates nationwide often dooms them. Still, Donald and many of his followers will not go “gently into the political night,” and too many GOPers remain afraid of challenging him. However, if Democrats continue to organize and invest well in GA, they can widen the political playing field and worry less about “Red”-turning Ohio and Iowa. Again, congratulations Sen./Rev. Warnock! Your “good trouble” efforts are helping both GA and the entire country.