Grassroots activists and high-level Democrats called for Matt Lieberman to abandon his U.S. Senate bid Thursday and clear the way for Raphael Warnock as polls show a tight race in the free-for-all contest.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder endorsed Warnock’s campaign to challenge U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, urging “those who care about the direction of Georgia and this nation” to rally behind his bid.
Stacey Abrams, arguably Warnock’s most influential advocate, said she was deeply disturbed by a Lieberman novel that critics say was shaped by racist tropes, and called for him to “search his conscience” and make way for Warnock.
“We need Matt Lieberman to understand he’s not called for this moment,” said Abrams, adding: “Dropping out of the race is not a possibility. But we’re asking for people to consolidate their support around Raphael Warnock.”
And a group of Atlanta Jewish community leaders is preparing to run an ad with the names of more than 300 local Democrats backing Warnock over Lieberman, a former principal of the Atlanta Jewish Academy.
“More than one Democratic candidate is running ... but only one has a chance of winning,” says the ad slated for the Atlanta Jewish Times, which was obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Matt is very well respected and widely known and we believe that he would be a terrific senator,” said Michael Rosenzweig, a leader of the group. “But we believe that he doesn’t have a realistic chance of winning this thing. He does have a chance of knocking Warnock out of the runoff, though, which will be very troubling.”
Lieberman, a former educator and entrepreneur, has flatly rejected talk of quitting the race and insists he has as much of a shot as Warnock in the November special election, which features 21 candidates on the same ballot with no party primary to filter out nominees.
A series of polls released this week by the AJC and other outlets suggest his chances of seriously contesting the seat are dim. Once, he ran neck-and-neck with Warnock, but now he’s hovering around 10% of the vote.
Warnock has increased his standing in the polls at Lieberman’s expense. The polls showed him roughly even with Loeffler and Republican US. Rep. Doug Collins at around 20%. Another Democrat, Ed Tarver, is further behind in the low single-digits.
Democrats are fretting because they fear that Lieberman’s presence in the contest will siphon just enough votes away from Warnock to allow the two Republicans to squeeze ahead, depriving Democrats of a shot in a January runoff between the top finishers.
Lieberman said the math works in the party’s advantage and argued that either he or Warnock will soar to the top – and the other will be left in the dust.
“Either I’m in a statistical dead heat with Warnock or I’m sufficiently far behind not to be a threat,” Lieberman said in an interview. “Those are the two possibilities going forward. And if I end up at 10%, I pose no threat whatsoever to Warnock advancing. If I’m at 20%, I’m every bit as strong as he is.”
Holder’s endorsement, meanwhile, comes as a blow to Tarver, who reported to the then-attorney general while he was a U.S. attorney for parts of east Georgia. In his statement to the AJC, Holder praised Warnock’s “integrity and passion” on the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
“Whether it’s expanding economic opportunity to everyone, protecting the right to vote, or bringing together a coalition of people willing to reform our broken criminal justice system, Reverend Warnock will be a senator who works on behalf of every Georgian,” Holder said.