Stacey Abrams, the former gubernatorial nominee whose campaign energized Georgia’s Democratic voters, Thursday put her political starpower behind the U.S. Senate bid of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.
Abrams, who announced her endorsement via Twitter, praised Warnock as “a leader who sees all of us and serves all of us.” She also included a link where people could contribute money to Warnock’s campaign, which kicked off Thursday morning.
Warnock’s candidacy, along with Abrams’s pledge to help him win, is the latest development in what is shaping up as a contentious contest that is key to Democrats’ hopes of retaking the Senate.
Abrams, who was heavily courted to run for the Senate but declined, is one of the party’s most popular political figures. Since narrowly losing the governor’s race in 2018, Abrams has focused on voting rights, raising millions of dollars for a national effort to beef up voter education and protection operations in battleground states ahead of this year’s election.
Although she has endorsed candidates in municipal elections in Georgia, her endorsement of Warnock is the first major political endorsement.
Warnock announced his bid in a three-minute videothat traced his path from growing up in public housing in Savannah to leading the congregation of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
“Some might ask why a pastor thinks he should serve in the Senate,” Warnock said. “Well, I’ve committed my whole life to service and helping people realize their highest potential. I’ve always thought that my impact doesn’t stop at the church door. That’s actually where it starts.”
Warnock is eyeing the seat currently held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), a business executive who was appointed to the post by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp following the retirement of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R).
Abrams, in her endorsement said, “I have fought beside him to end voter suppression. I worked with him to protect the Affordable Care Act and to expand Medicaid … Wherever there is need, Reverend Warnock can be found on the front lines.” She said he was needed “On the front lines of the battle for the soul of America.”
Democrats are eyeing Georgia as a top 2020 target in their bid to retake the Senate. Since the race would constitute a special election to finish the final two years of Isakson’s term, it would not include a primary, allowing multiple candidates of both parties to run for the position. If no candidate receives more than a majority of the vote, the top two candidates would proceed to a runoff in January 2021.
Warnock’s announcement came a day after Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), a top defender of President Trump, confirmed his candidacy for the seat, a move that divided Republicans.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee immediately made clear it would support Loeffler and suggested Collins’s entrance into the race will hurt the prospects of other Republicans on the ticket and put Georgia in play in the presidential election.
Besides Warnock, two other Democrats are running: Ed Tarver, a former federal prosecutor in Georgia under President Barack Obama; and Matt Lieberman, the son of former senator and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.