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“The People Have Spoken”: Sen. Warnock Wins in Georgia in Victory Over GOP Voter Suppression Efforts

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Senator Raphael Warnock makes history defeating Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia’s closely watched Senate runoff, becoming the first Black senator to be elected to a six-year term in Georgia. His victory in Tuesday’s special election will give Democrats control of 51 seats in the Senate. It also marks a major defeat for former President Donald Trump, who had handpicked Walker, a former football star who had no political experience, to be the standard-bearer in Georgia. Walker is the eighth Trump-backed Senate candidate to lose this year, despite earlier predictions that Republicans would regain control of the Senate. Warnock received 51.4% of the vote compared to Walker’s 48.6%. LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, says intense on-the-ground organizing was able to put Warnock over the top, but she warns that the tight result is a “red flag” signaling the continued threat from Trump. “We’re still fighting voter suppression. We’re still fighting fascism,” says Brown.

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StoryDec 06, 2022Warnock vs. Walker, Round 2: Georgia Breaks Voting Records in Senate Runoff Election
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock has made history by defeating Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia’s closely watched Senate runoff. Warnock’s victory gives the Democrats control of 51 seats in the next Senate. Warnock becomes the first Black senator to be elected to a full six-year term in Georgia. He received 51.4% of the vote to Walkers 48.6%. Senator Raphael Warnock addressed supporters in Atlanta last night.

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: Now, there are those who will look at the outcome of this race —

WARNOCK SUPPORTER: We won!

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: — and say that — yes, you’re right: We won. But there are those who would look at the outcome of this race and say that there is no voter suppression in Georgia. Let me be clear: Just because people endured long lines that wrapped around buildings, some blocks long, just because they endured the rain and the cold and all kinds of tricks in order to vote doesn’t mean that voter suppression does not exist. It simply means that you, the people, have decided that your voices will not be silenced.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Raphael Warnock, speaking after defeating Republican NFL star Herschel Walker in Georgia’s closely watched Senate runoff.

Senator Warnock was raised in public housing in Savannah, Georgia. He was the 11th of 12 children, the first in his family to go to college. He first rose to national prominence as the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which was the spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When Reverend Warnock was first elected in 2021, he became the first Black Democrat ever to represent a Southern state, as well as the first Black senator from Georgia and just the 11th Black senator in U.S. history.

Warnock’s victory marked a major defeat for former President Donald Trump, who had handpicked Herschel Walker, a former football star who had no political experience. Walker became the eighth Trump-backed Senate candidate to lose this year, a year in which the Republicans had expected to regain control of the Senate.

Herschel Walker conceded to Raphael Warnock last night.

HERSCHEL WALKER: I want you to believe in America and continue to believe in the Constitution and believe in our elected officials, most of all. Continue to pray for them, because all the prayers you’ve given me, I’ve felt those prayers.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Atlanta, Georgia, where we’re joined by LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund.

LaTosha, thanks so much for rejoining us on Democracy Now! If you can talk about the significance of Senator Raphael Warnock, Reverend Raphael Warnock’s victory last night, and the lessons learned?

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, I think that there is — I am still actually in — I’m so excited and happy about the outcome of that election. I think there are a number of things. One, I think just historically that here it is, a full — he has a full six-year term to serve in the Senate, an African American male from a state that what we — that we know historically that Black men and women have actually been killed just for trying to register to vote, a state that has been on the forefront of literally leading voter suppression in a myriad of ways, and even intensifying that in the last few years. So I think that it has a historical significance around the fight to vote, particularly in the African American community.

I also think that it has a significance because it has national political implications, that what we know is now the Democrats have 51 seats, which means that now they actually have freedom around — far more freedom and space in terms of the committee appointments, to be able to actually get judges through, to be able to get appointments through, and, I think, even put pressure on folks like Sinema and Manchin, who have actually stood in the way of certain legislation, particularly like voting rights legislation, to get through. And so, I think that that has a — that will have a significant impact, you know, on the national policy that goes forward that the Democrats actually pushing.

The third thing that it does is I think that it reaffirms a particular model of what we’ve been saying all the while, you know, that what we saw is we saw voter suppression. I want people understand that, yes, while we saw record turnout, we also saw long lines. And while it was an indicator that people were voting, the fact of the matter is people were standing in line for two and three hours. That should not be the case. But that is a result of the voter suppression, that when we look at what has happened from the 2021 election, where Warnock was — Senator Warnock was first elected from that special election, what we know is that, literally, you know, there were eight — we had eight-and-a-half, almost nine weeks of early voting. That got truncated into four weeks. So you only had four weeks of early voting, which actually intensified what groups on the ground had to do to make sure people had information.

And then, to add insult to injury, in the state of Georgia, where you’ve got the constitutional officer who is supposed to be the — is supposed to manage the electoral process, the secretary of state, his responsibility is to actually give information to voters to be able to engage in a process and literally encourage voters, citizens to participate in the political process — he actually sued, not wanting to — tried to literally not want to have a Saturday voting opportunity for the voters in the state. So, instead of literally taking the job of really expanding the opportunity and making sure that voters would actually participate, instead, he wanted us to observe a Confederate holiday so that voters would not come out. And it was because — I mean, would not have the opportunity to vote. And it was because of the Warnock campaign and several other plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit that literally the judge ruled in their favor, that opened up Saturday voting. And that weekend wound up being one of the largest voting turnout weekends in the history — in a runoff election in the history of Georgia, because there was a genuine need.

So, those are just some of the things that I think that happened historically in this campaign, that what you also see — and I think this is the most critical piece. Part of what people should really recognize is that Warnock was able to get the LGBTQ community, he was able to get progressive whites, he was able to get independents, he was able to get AAPI, the Latinos, African Americans, the Indigenous people. He had a broad-based coalition and, in many ways, a nuanced message to each of those constituencies. That is the future of Georgia. That is what — the America that we desire, we deserve. That’s the America — that’s what America looks like. And I think it gives a message that, in terms of going forward, the Democratic Party is going to have to literally, like, just hunker down and be able to speak to those different constituency groups in a way that we’re moving forward with coalition politics.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, LaTosha Brown, I wanted to ask you — this was certainly a victory against voter suppression, but at the same time it was also one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history, the estimates by OpenSecrets that more than $380 million was spent between the campaigns and that Warnock had a significant lead in the spending. So, is the message here also — could you talk about the influence of money still in our electoral process? And will all candidates seeking to beat back voter suppression have to come up with this kind of money to be able to win?

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, that is just not sustainable. The bottom line is, in this particular case, yes. You know, what we know is Warnock did have a large war chest, right? And while that was — I think that that has had a — went to play and made a difference. You know, early on in the campaign, early on in the midterms, groups like mine and others, grassroots organizations that also did a tremendous part of the heavy lift in this election, were saying that the resources were not on the ground, that while we needed to actually have an air war, there needed to be a ground war. And I do think that that’s something that, as we reflect, and going forward, and as the Democrats reflect, going forward, I think that’s a real consideration, that ultimately it’s going to bump up against, bump up against some issues around making sure that different communities are engaged.

The second thing is, to your point, it is just unrealistic and unsustainable. It is obnoxious, the amount of resources that are being spent on these political campaigns. That’s why I think we need — we need campaign reform — right? — so that we can literally — that it should not be who wins who has the most money. It’s who literally is engaging the most people, who has the heart and the mind to actually shape policy and are going to really be able to speak to the people.

In this particular case, yes, he was able to have money, and I certainly think that the money helped. I certainly think that it actually helped to push him over the edge. But I would also say that, really, it was the people, that, ultimately, in this particular case, he had the best of multiple worlds. He had the traditional kind of financial backing that you would have as a — and more so than most Democratic candidates would have, right? And then, what he also had is he actually had this infrastructure, that was literally outside of his campaign, that wanted to see him win badly and that we used and leveraged our resources, our time and our energy to make sure that we actually pushed to get voters out, so that voters could have — make a choice. And we thought that the choice would be clear, that once they got to the polls, people knew exactly what to do, and they knew the kind of leadership. But this is a larger question around, as we go forward, the need for campaign finance reform.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And i wanted to ask you — Herschel Walker, his opponent, was handpicked by Donald Trump and was really the candidate of the MAGA Republican — the MAGA wing of the Republican Party. Your sense of what this says about Trump’s power within the Republican Party and also what it may signal for his presidential run in 2024?

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, I think it’s a really good question. I actually think it’s a much more complicated question. You know, I would love to say, “Oh, we’ve beat Trump, and that’s it.” I can’t say that, that at the end of the day, yes, we beat Trump. Yes, I think that if he comes out again, we’re going to do everything to beat him again.

But the truth of the matter is, the fact that Herschel Walker, a candidate — right? — who was one of the weakest candidates I’ve ever known in my — in the history of doing these elections, who was handpicked, plopped out of — picked out of Texas, placed in Georgia — he even had the audacity to file his taxes in the midst of this campaign, that actually where he said that for the last 17 years he has been living in Texas. He’s a resident of Texas, someone who literally was so disconnected from his own community and so disconnected from the plight of what African Americans are actually experiencing right now, that he minimized racism. He actually referred to himself as a negative racial slur that had been used against African Americans for years in the Deep South, where he called himself — he actually embraced this notion of being called a “coon,” that here’s someone that with all of that baggage, someone who literally his own family came out against him, said that he had not raised his children, that he had a domestic violence abuse, that abortion — we can go on and on and on.

The fact that there was only a 100,000-vote difference between these two candidates who were starkly different also speaks to something, too. I think it speaks to that we cannot take for granted that this is just a traditional elections, that we’re going to have traditional elections where, oh, it’s a Democratic candidate and Republican candidate, and which candidate, that we’ll get the — we’re far beyond that. We have to also recognize that we are still fighting the big lie, that we have to also recognize that we’re still fighting voter suppression, that we’re still fighting fascism, that at the end of the day, that when you could just take a candidate out of nowhere, that is the weakest candidate that we’ve seen, and be able to garner over 1.7 million voters — right? — that, in itself, should also be a red flag for us, and we should not take lightly or take for granted that Trump will not be a factor in the upcoming — in the presidential election.

AMY GOODMAN: LaTosha Brown, it’s interesting that Herschel Walker, despite all the scandals around him, actually conceded defeat immediately last night, something that his main supporter, Donald Trump, would not do, and embraced the Constitution — Trump in the last few days saying the Constitution of the United States should be thrown out. But I wanted to ask you about this issue of voter suppression and whether the Republicans’ attempts to stop voting — and clearly, many people were disenfranchised. It’s just a testament to the advocacy on the ground to get people out to vote; it made it all the more amazing. Whether Republicans are now reconsidering two things. One is this kind of voter suppression, because it actually galvanizes people. And, two, Democrats had it hands down when it came to this record early voting, something Republicans tend not to do. They vote on Election Day. Aren’t they reconsidering all of this? And how will your tactics change, as well?

LATOSHA BROWN: You know, I can’t tell you what they’re reconsidering, because I think they’ve made some really critical mistakes, part of what they constantly have been doing. And we’ve seen this in the last — and particularly in the last, in the most recent elections. They have a tendency to believe that if they cheat, if they put voter suppression tactics in place, that in some way we’re just going to get — we will get dejected from the process and not engage. You know, I’ve also seen where they’ve actually planted these narratives, like the narrative that Black men were not going to vote in this election, they were so upset with the Democratic Party, when we actually saw the reverse happen in Georgia. We saw that, literally, right behind Black women were Black men in terms of their support of the Democratic ticket.

I think that they should consider it. Whether they considered it or not, I’m not sure. The fact that they have made some major mistakes, the fact that they ran Dr. Oz, the fact that they ran Herschel Walker, the fact that there — actually still a sizable part of the party still supports Trump says that there is some disconnect from the reality. I think that in some ways they’re blinded by raw power, and have decided, by any means necessary, if they have to cheat, steal, whatever they need to do to undermine the process, they’re willing to do that.

They should reconsider, because what we’ve seen over and over again is that there is also a backlash, that they constantly underestimate the power of voters, of new voters, that there has been a shift. They are unwilling to accept that the political landscape that they have been used to has forever changed. And when you look in Georgia, the last census, in the last 10 years, 100% of the population growth in Georgia have been communities of color, that when you look at the average age in the state, the state is becoming not only more diverse, but younger. And we’re seeing that demographic shift all across the country, which is going to demand — that’s going to demand a different kind of political reality and a different kind of politics, a body politic. And I think we’re seeing — we’re starting to see some of the fruits of that labor, and we’re seeing some of the — and I don’t see the Republicans actually responding in any way that makes me think that they’re going to be smart enough, humble enough or even just have enough integrity to really take those things in consideration.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, interestingly, the victory of Raphael Warnock, who becomes the first Black Democrat to be elected to the Senate by a former state of the Confederacy — that happened last time, but now as a full-term senator — dethrones what some call “the other President Joe,” President Joe Manchin, in Washington, D.C., actually Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, because now the Democrats don’t need all 50 votes, now that it’s 51 to 49, to pass all legislation. An interesting effect that it’s going to have in Washington, D.C.

LATOSHA BROWN: Absolutely. I think it’s a game changer, for a number of reasons, for the reason that you just stated. I think one of the most disappointing things that, as a voting rights activist and advocate, for me, in this last election cycle has been the failure of the Democrats to pass voting rights legislation, that we need voting rights legislation. You know, what we saw in Georgia, when we saw that it was like, “Well, there were high turnouts,” the truth of the matter is, we still had to put an enormous amount of resources and time and people power to actually try to offset as much as possible the voter suppression. But the truth of the matter is, while I’m happy that we won, I still maintain we cannot continue — we can’t outorganize voter suppression, that it is unsustainable to continue to see the goalposts be moved and that we’re responsible for responding to that. So we’re going to have to have federal legislation. I think Warnock has been a champion for voting rights. He has been consistently. And so we need him in the Senate to be able to push back on that. And I think having that extra vote gives some more leverage room for the Democrats to really take that up seriously.

I think the second thing is also around the committee assignments. Because of this 51 vote, now the Democrats have more space to really make committee assignments, which means that they can actually prioritize some of the things that we want to see as progressives. We want to see — in the state of Georgia, the minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. No one can live off that. We need to see a fair wage for people, that when they’re going to work, that they’re able to pay for and take care of their families. That we want to see the expansion, you know, of healthcare and healthcare access. And so, I think that having that one person, that extra vote, that extra leverage, will also give the opportunity for the Democrats to actually have more leverage of prioritizing the things that we want, in terms of the committee assignments, to be able also to be able to get judges through, to elect, and to really be able to have more room and space within their caucus around what policies that they will prioritize, going forward.

AMY GOODMAN: And just to be clear, what LaTosha Brown was talking about is, because it was 50-50, each committee was evenly divided. Now Democrats will have the majority of every committee in the U.S. Senate. LaTosha Brown, I want to thank you so much for being with us, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund.

When we come back, “Death by Policy: Crisis in the Arizona Desert.” A new investigation by Futuro Media shows how U.S. border policies force migrants seeking refuge into some of the deadliest terrain in the southern United States. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder, a Raphael Warnock supporter.

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