Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Atlanta church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, announced a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia on Jan. 30.
Warnock, who became the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church at the age of 35 in 2005, released a campaign announcement video highlighting his family and upbringing, saying his parents taught him and his 11 siblings the value of hard work.
Responding to those who might wonder why a pastor would run for Senate, Warnock told viewers: “I’ve always thought that my impact doesn’t stop at the church door; that’s actually where it starts. I love this country. I believe that what makes America so great, is that we’ve always had a path to make it greater.”
He also said that, “Struggling families across Georgia have it tougher than I did back then,” growing up in a housing project in Savannah with his brothers, sisters, and parents.
Warnock is vying for a seat that was vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), 75. Kelly Loeffler, a 49-year-old business executive, was selected to fill the seat temporarily by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. The seat is up for grabs in the 2020 election, as is the seat held by Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.), who is running for reelection.
Loeffler, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who confirmed his bid this week to the dismay of establishment Republicans. Collins is a strong ally of President Donald Trump but Loeffler has earned accolades from Trump and other Republicans for her opposition to the impeachment efforts against the president.
Warnock is the third Democrat to join the race. Also running are Ed Tarver, a former federal prosecutor who served as U.S. attorney for Georgia’s Southern District under President Barack Obama; and Matt Lieberman, the son of former senator and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.
Under Georgia’s current special election setup, the more candidates that run, the greater the odds of the race going to a January 2021 runoff between the top two finishers, which is required if no candidate receives a majority of votes in November. State House Speaker David Ralston, a longtime Collins friend, is pushing a law that would force party primaries in May. Kemp has threatened to veto that proposal.
Warnock, the son of two pastors, entered the ministry at an early age. After graduating from Morehouse College, he served at churches in Birmingham, Alabama; New York, and Baltimore before becoming Ebenezer’s senior pastor in 2005, when he was 35.
Warnock hasn’t shied away from politics at Ebenezer, where Martin Luther King, Sr. and his son played key roles in the civil rights movement. Warnock hosted an interfaith meeting on climate change alongside former Vice President Al Gore and championed reforms to the nation’s criminal justice system. In 2015 he considered running for the Senate against Isakson, before deciding against it.
Three Democrats are challenging Perdue in the other race: 2017 congressional candidate Jon Ossoff, former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, and 2018 candidate for lieutenant governor Sarah Riggs Amico.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.