U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler leveled one of her first direct attacks at her leading Democratic opponent on Monday, questioning whether Raphael Warnock supports defunding law enforcement in the wake of nationwide protests for racial equality.
Her criticism echoes a Republican strategy in Georgia and around the nation of trying to tie their opponents to the push to rethink policing. Some supporters want to shift money to other areas of need, others want to abolish police departments entirely.
“It’s abundantly clear that Raphael Warnock is taking a page out of Joe Biden’s hide and seek playbook,” Loeffler said. “When the stakes are this high, we all deserve courage and accountability from our candidates. Where’s Warnock? His silence is deafening.”
Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, said he opposes defunding the police but supports a method to “responsibly fund law enforcement.”
“We need to reimagine policing and reimagine the relationships between law enforcement and communities,” said Warnock. “We certainly need to demilitarize the police so we can rebuild the trust between the police and the community.”
Until now, Loeffler has focused much of her fire on U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a four-term Republican who is leading recent polls of the wild November special election. The attack could signal a strategy shift as the election nears.
The contest will feature 21 candidates on the same ballot, with no party primaries to select nominees. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the two top finishers face a January runoff.
In Georgia’s other U.S. Senate race, Jon Ossoff has come under fire from Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue on similar grounds.
Ossoff said he backs “reforming and demilitarizing policing in America” and echoed Biden’s stance to link federal funding of law enforcement agencies to certain standards, including whether they can “demonstrate they can protect the community.”
Loeffler’s stance evokes her recent rhetoric about the movement. She told Fox News last week “we cannot allow mob rule” as she criticized chaotic demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
On Monday, she highlighted her support of a stalled Republican-backed policing overhaul that would provide incentives for bans on chokeholds, make lynching a federal crime and mandate more reporting about use of force and “no knock warrants.”
“I stand against the violence that has terrorized our state and our country. That’s why I have condemned lawlessness and stood strongly against those destroying our monuments and destroying our communities,” she said. “How about Raphael Warnock?”
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