Warnock launches debut ad, hoping to break away in Georgia Senate race

Raphael Warnock, pastor of famed church, enters Georgia Senate race
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Raphael Warnock, pastor of famed church, enters Georgia Senate race

Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock has struggled in recent polls to break away from fellow Democrats in a messy special election. His campaign is banking on an ad blitz released Wednesday to pull ahead for good.

The debut ad, his first TV spot of his campaign, highlights his upbringing in a Savannah housing project and his journey to the pulpit of Atlanta’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

As the pastor walks along Savannah’s streets near his childhood home, Warnock speaks direct to camera about his push to expand access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, protect voting rights and advocate for income equality.

“I’m Raphael Warnock and I realize that a kid growing up here today, and struggling families all across Georgia, have it harder than I did back then,” said Warnock. “That’s got to change. And it will. That’s why I approve this message.”

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Warnock is one of 20 candidates facing Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the November special election, which features all contenders on the same ballot without a primary to filter out nominees. If none wins a majority of support, then the two top vote-getters head to a January runoff.

While Loeffler trades fire with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, her most formidable Republican rival, Warnock has been left largely unscathed by GOP groups. That’s allowed the first-time candidate breathing room to try to consolidate party support and prepare for a January showdown against either Collins or Loeffler.

He’s earned endorsements from every prominent Georgia Democrat who has taken a side, the backing of more than half of his party’s contingent of U.S. senators and help from Stacey Abrams, one of the nation’s foremost Democratic political stars.

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Still, recent polls show Warnock in a tight race with Matt Lieberman, an Atlanta educator whose father Joe was a U.S. senator and former vice presidential nominee. Facing insistent calls from some Georgia Democrats to abandon the race, Lieberman has said he’s staying put.

Some polls suggest a split Democratic vote could lead to an all-Republican runoff, assuring the GOP holds the coveted seat. But few state party leaders are panicking.

Interviews with Democratic officials revealed a mix of concern about Warnock’s standing coupled with confidence his numbers will rise above Lieberman and former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver, who lags behind in most polls, with a concerted ad campaign.

Warnock, who has outraised the entire field since he entered the race in January, has the money to potentially stay on air until November. Ad trackers say he’s reserved more than $3 million for airtime through the fall, including at least $400,000 for the inaugural ad.

Watch the ad here:

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