Raphael Warnock hints he will run for U.S. Senate

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, gave an “everything but” speech to more than 1,000 Georgia Democrats gathered Saturday night for the party’s signature fundraiser.

As in, he did “everything but” announce his candidacy for U.S.Senate.

But the senior shepherd of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic church made crystal clear he was leaning toward challenging Republican Johnny Isakson, and he outlined what would be his platform in a campaign against the two-term incumbent.

A call for the expansion of Medicaid. A push to raise the minimum wage. A demand to expand voting rights. A promise to end wage inequality between men and women. And a vow to “defend the dignity” of gays and other minorities.

In short, it was a blueprint for a Democratic campaign that tries to supercharge the party's base by appealing to core issues – a campaign that would veer from the more moderate-leaning bid for office last year from Michelle Nunn.

And the crowd rewarded Warnock with wild applause as he gave his eight-minute speech.

“It has been rumored that I am considering a run for the United States Senate. It’s true, I’m thinking about it. I’m mulling it over," said Warnock to cheers, adding: "I’m sick and tired of seeing the people I serve every day as a pastor work harder and longer and have less to show for it.”

He continued:

"Whether I choose to run or not, I have to work. Democrats, can I ask you a question tonight? Are you ready to work? Say it like you’re in a Baptist church. Are you ready to work? [the crowd roared in response]

"We’ve got work to do. There are 700,000 eligible, unregistered people of color in this state. They are not disengaged or disinterested. They are disillusioned. They see no connection between the candidates and the people and the politics they serve. And sadly, in many instances they are right."

Warnock told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in August he would soon decide whether he will run against Isakson, who is seeking his third term. He would be the first Democrat to challenge Isakson, who recently revealed he is suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Warnock has since told his congregation that he’s wrestling with whether he can pull off double-duty by preaching on Sundays and campaigning the rest of the week, and he held a members-only meeting with his flock earlier this month to discuss his future.

The political newcomer would face daunting odds. Isakson enjoys high name recognition, popularity across the aisle and is sitting on more than $4 million in campaign contributions.

But Democrats hope Warnock’s unabashedly left-leaning positions on issues ranging from Medicaid expansion to voting rights could help him appeal to the base and attract droves of new minority voters.

He made the platform he would pursue clear on Saturday. Said Warnock:

"Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s expand Medicaid. Because when we expand Medicaid, we expand Georgia’s economy. And protect voting rights. Protect worker rights. Give women equal pay for equal work … Raise the minimum wage. Defend the dignity and equality of our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers."

He finished: "Let’s rise up, and make Georgia better and America greater."

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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