Jimmy Carter backs Warnock in crowded U.S. Senate race in Georgia

FILE- In this Sept. 12, 2018, file photo former President Jimmy Carter answers questions from students during his annual town hall with Emory University in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal Constitution/AP

Credit: Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal Constitution/AP

Warnock ‘will be the voice Georgians need,’ Carter says

Senate Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock added former President Jimmy Carter to his list of endorsements on Tuesday, making him the latest party official to take sides in what is essentially a primary for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat.

The Georgia native’s endorsement comes amid extraordinary pressure from across the Democratic spectrum urging Warnock rival Matt Lieberman to abandon the race, a 21-candidate free-for-all that appears certain to end in a January runoff.

Carter said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Warnock “will be the voice Georgians need in Washington to ensure every child and every family has an opportunity to thrive.”

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He’s the second former president in a week to back Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Democratic frontrunner in the all-party race. Barack Obama endorsed Warnock on Friday, one of the few instances where he’s picked sides in a race featuring multiple Democratic contenders.

Lieberman, whose father Joe is a former vice presidential nominee, has resisted the mounting calls from party leaders and activists to quit, saying he’s got as much a chance to win as Warnock.

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Recent polls suggest his prospects are fading as Warnock’s ad blitz intensifies. The latest AJC survey showed Warnock in a neck-and-neck race with Loeffler and her top Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins. Lieberman and former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver lagged further behind.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during the Martin Luther King, Jr. annual commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Since no candidate is likely to win more than 50% of the vote, a January showdown between the two top finishers is expected. Some Democrats worry that Lieberman’s presence in the race will siphon enough votes from Warnock to lock him out of the runoff, depriving the party of a shot at a vulnerable incumbent.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump urged both Collins and Loeffler to stay in the race to drive out GOP turnout during a campaign stop in Atlanta on Friday.

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Carter, who at 95 is the nation’s longest-living former president, is not averse to wading into Georgia races. He was an enthusiastic supporter of his grandson Jason Carter’s 2014 gubernatorial bid, and he campaigned with Stacey Abrams in 2018 in his hometown of Plains.

He cited the still-raging coronavirus pandemic in his endorsement of Warnock, saying that the “nation must continue to march towards progress” while holding to ideals of equality, justice and economic opportunity.

“Reverend Warnock knows the struggles Georgians are facing in this unique crisis — families losing health care, shuttered rural hospitals and record unemployment — all in the middle of a pandemic," he said.

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