By KENDALL KARSON, ABC News
(ATLANTA) — The Rev. Raphael Warnock, a prominent Black preacher who leads Atlanta’s storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, has secured a barrier-breaking victory in Georgia.
ABC News projects that Warnock will topple incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a prominent Republican donor and staunch ally of President Donald Trump who earned political office after being appointed by Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to the seat.
Warnock, a Savannah native who delivers sermons from the pulpit that once belonged to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will become the first Black senator from Georgia — a feat that closes out an election cycle dominated by the role of race in politics.
He is only the second Black senator elected from the South since the Reconstruction era, and he’s among a rare class of 10 African Americans who have served in the upper chamber of Congress.
Warnock’s victory is the culmination of a year filled with police brutality and violence against African Americans, which sparked months of demonstrations and put the debate over the Black Lives Matter movement at the center of the 2020 campaign.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator,” Warnock said during virtual remarks early Tuesday. “We were told that we couldn’t win this election. But tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
It also brings Democrats one step closer to securing a majority in the Senate, which will hand President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration more room to maneuver on policy, such as voting rights, over the next two years.
Throughout the runoff campaign, Warnock has stumped in tandem with Jon Ossoff, the other Democrat competing on Tuesday against Republican Sen. David Perdue for his seat in Georgia. It was never lost on the two Senate hopefuls how high the stakes are in their races.
“My name is on the ballot and the bus, but this is a collective effort,” Warnock said earlier Tuesday. “This is our day. It’s about Georgia and the future of our state. The eyes of the nation are here.”
Loeffler, who sought to cast Warnock as too “radical” for Georgia, claimed she still had a path to victory at her election night celebration in Atlanta, despite trailing her Democratic rival by at least 35,000 votes.
“We have a path to victory and we’re staying on it,” Loeffler said. “We have some work to do here. This is a game of inches. We’re gonna win this election.”
Georgia’s other Senate race, between Ossoff and Perdue, is too close to project as votes are still being tallied. Democrats will need to win both races in order to retake the Senate. If Democrats win both races, each party will have 50 seats and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be the tie-breaking vote for Democrats in the Senate.
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