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Who is Sen. Raphael Warnock?

Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) delivers remarks at a rally at Wild Heaven West End Brewery & Gardens in Atlanta on Dec. 5. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Democratic Sen. Raphael G. Warnock, a passionate orator whose speeches often connect mundane D.C. policy to a higher purpose, won a full term to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday in a hard-fought runoff election in Georgia against Republican Herschel Walker.

Warnock, 53, has been on the ballot five times since he first became a candidate for Senate in 2020 to fill the final two years of the late Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. He won that race in a tight runoff election in January 2021, becoming the first Black senator from Georgia and the first Black Democratic senator from the South.

In his brief time in Washington, Warnock has risen as one of the most impactful voices in the Democratic Party. He is known as a powerful speaker who draws inspiration from iconic civil rights leaders from Georgia, such as the late Rep. John Lewis. Warnock uses his own life’s trajectory to speak about America’s promise.

Warnock was born in Savannah, and he and his 11 siblings grew up in public housing. Their mother had worked as a sharecropper, picking cotton and tobacco as a teen.

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Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) has officially defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate runoff, giving Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate. Read our takeaways from the runoff election.

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Warnock excelled academically and was the first in his family to attend college. He obtained a degree in psychology from Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s school that counts the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. among its esteemed alumni.

Warnock earned a doctorate from the Union Theological Seminary in New York, which led him to leadership positions at prominent Black churches in Birmingham, Baltimore, New York and finally, Atlanta, where he serves as head pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King famously preached during the height of the civil rights movement until his assassination in 1968.

Warnock used the pulpit to advocate for progressive issues, particularly around health care, such as expanding Medicaid. As a politician, he has continued to use soaring rhetoric to fight for voting rights and against racial and economic inequities.

Just a few weeks after he won the runoff on Jan. 5, 2021, Warnock stood on the Senate floor and implored his colleagues to support the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, legislation aimed at expanding voting access.

“We’ve been summoned here. We cannot turn away. And in just a few moments, all 100 of us, blessed with a sacred trust, will let the American people know where we stand on the question of whether the Senate will protect their voices, the voices of the very people who sent us here — or if we will simply surrender to the anti-democratic fervor and polarizing disunity spreading across our nation,” Warnock said in his floor speech. The bill died in the Senate.

Earlier this year, Warnock was at the forefront of a push to cap the high cost of insulin for Medicare enrollees. In the campaign’s closing days, Warnock highlighted that issue to contrast his record with Walker’s.

But mostly, Warnock characterized the race as a question of “character and competence,” calling Walker unfit to be a senator.

“I know we have political differences. That’s part of what makes this country a great country … but let me tell you — in my race, this isn’t about Republican and Democrat. This is not about right and left,” Warnock said last week during a rally with former president Barack Obama. “This is about the difference between right and wrong.”

While Walker had to contend with numerous high-profile scandals, Warnock also had to deal with his own personal issues during the campaign. Warnock’s ex-wife, the mother of his two young children, sued to have his child support payments “recalculated” based on his increased income since joining the Senate. During his 2020 election, she alleged that Warnock ran over her foot with a car during a dispute, though no charges were filed. A super PAC supporting Walker made an attack ad using police body-cam footage from that incident which showed Warnock’s ex calling him a “great actor.”

“I want to set the record straight: My children live with me. I am present with my children in every way that a father should be, from breakfast in the morning to bedtime prayers at night. I can’t continue to let him lie about our family,” Warnock told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a November interview, speaking about Walker.

On the trail, Warnock also sought to appeal to independent and Republican voters by touting his work across the aisle, calling himself a “practical” senator who is willing to work with anyone to deliver for Georgians. He frequently mentioned working with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on a bill addressing maternal mortality rates and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on an amendment that targeting the planned extension of Interstate 14.

“There is a road that runs through our humanity,” he has said many times on the trail.

Georgia, a politically polarized and racially diverse state, helped secure the White House for President Biden in 2020. Warnock’s historic win that election cycle, along with fellow Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff, gave Democrats a slim 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Harris as the tiebreaking vote.

Going into this year’s runoff, the Democrats already have 50 seats after flipping a Republican-held seat in Pennsylvania in November. Warnock’s win gave the party a much-coveted 51st seat, which will give Democrats more power in committees; it could also make it easier for the party to pass legislation if one of its members balks, as has happened several times during the past two years.

Warnock focused his campaign on the issues important to Georgia’s voters rather than the national implications of his race.

“I can say to the people of Georgia with a straight face that after nearly two years of doing this work, as frustrating as politics can be and as cynical as our politics has become, because of the work that I’m able to get done for ordinary folks, I love this job,” Warnock said. “And I intend to make good use of the trust that the people have placed in my hands to fight for them every single day.”

The 2022 Midterm Elections

Georgia runoff election: Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) won re-election in the Georgia Senate runoff, defeating Republican challenger Herschel Walker and giving Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate for the 118th Congress. Get live updates here and runoff results by county.

Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly after the midterms. Here are the top 10 2024 presidential candidates for the Republicans and Democrats.

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