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'Welcome To The New Georgia': Raphael Warnock On His Win In Senate Runoff

Raphael Warnock will become Georgia's first Black senator.
Michael M. Santiago
Getty Images
Raphael Warnock will become Georgia's first Black senator.

Democrat Raphael Warnock made history in one of Georgia's two Senate runoffs on Tuesday when he became the first Black person to be elected to the Senate from the state and the first Black Democratic senator from the South.

"Georgia certainly made me proud last night," Warnock told NPR's Noel King Wednesday morning. "They decided to send a kid who grew up in public housing to the United States Senate to represent the concerns of ordinary people."

Warnock, 51, won his race by over 50,000 votes, according to The Associated Press, which is outside the 0.5 percentage point margin that would enable Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler to request a recount.

Warnock reflected on the state's increasingly diverse electorate as a factor in defeating Loeffler.

"Welcome to the new Georgia," he said. "It is more diverse. It's more inclusive. It readily embraces the future. And I'm the product of that."

After November's general election, Georgia became the center of the U.S. political universe and the scene of a bitter battle within the GOP over the results of the 2020 presidential election, with President Trump falsely claiming that the state was stolen from him. The state's result is likely to be challenged Wednesday as Congress counts the Electoral College vote. That challenge is expected to fail.

"Listen, the four most powerful words in a democracy are: 'The people have spoken.' The people of Georgia spoke very clearly on Nov. 3, when they elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and gave them our 16 electoral votes," Warnock said on NPR. "We counted those votes three times. It is clear, when you look at the swing states all across our country, Joe Biden is the president-elect. Unfortunately, there are enablers of this nonsense in the United States Senate. And that's why the people who I'm running into all across Georgia are frustrated with politics."

He said his campaign sought to cut through the noise of the "culture wars" and instead focused on the "concerns of ordinary people."

"I'm a pastor. I lead Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. served. He said that we're tied in a single garment of destiny, caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly," Warnock said. "And so whether we're talking about health care, or we're talking about a livable wage, there's a way in which we have to look out for one another."

Warnock said the coronavirus pandemic has brought those issues into sharper focus, and that he supports passing the $2,000 stimulus payments for qualifying Americans.

"Folks waited for months without getting any relief at all, and when we saw relief in the spring, too often it centered on large corporate businesses while small businesses were at the back of the line," he told NPR's King. "Some people need immediate relief. And we've got to get this virus under control. We've got to get the vaccine safely and efficiently distributed, so that we can safely reopen our economy, get our businesses roaring again, get our children back into school, but in a way that's sustainable."

Asked whether the Senate should push for more progressive climate legislation like the Green New Deal, Warnock stressed the need for "commonsense reform."

"There's no question that climate change is real. There's work we need to do on that front," he said. "I think too often, even in the places where there is agreement, at least among ordinary people that we need movement, we get no movement. And that's quite frankly because someone other than the people own our democracy. And so one of the things that I'll be very focused on is the outsized influence of well-connected corporate interests in our politics."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
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