Rev. Raphael Warnock PHOTO

THE Rev. Raphael Warnock

An Atlanta pastor is running for one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats in a crowded special election that will fill the post now held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

Rev. Raphael Warnock is the leader of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the spiritual home and former church of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Warnock is running for the seat that was vacated by former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired in December. But the seat is being challenged by 20 other candidates, including Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

In an interview with the Times-Georgian earlier this month, Warnock said this is the first time he has run for public office. He added his U.S. Senate campaign is “really a continuation of a lifelong commitment to service.”

“I feel like I’m not so much on a campaign so much as I am continuing running on advocacy, fighting for health care, which I think is a human right, fighting for the dignity of workers, ensuring voter rights and that everyone has a voice in our democracy,” he said.

Several polls show Warnock leading this week in the contested race for Loeffler’s seat, which political experts expect to go to a runoff between the top two vote-getters on Jan. 5.

Voters are going to the polls now through Nov. 3 to not only elect two U.S. senators but some state House and Senate seats — as well as the next president.

Warnock said the country is at an inflection point when it comes to the debate about racial injustices this year. He was born and raised in public housing and is now running for the U.S. Senate, which he said is an indication of the “living promise” of America today.

“We saw some tragic flashpoints in the summer around George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery right here in Georgia, and I officiated the service for Rayshard Brooks,” he said. “These are tragic reminders of our unfinished business with race and the need to ensure that there is equal protection.”

On health care, he said the U.S. is the richest nation in the world and federal lawmakers can ensure all her residents have affordable coverage. He said both Loeffler and Collins believe it is “a good idea” to get rid of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic and said he would fight to expand the benefits of this act, which is sometimes called ‘Obamacare.’

“As coronavirus cases skyrocket, the inadequacy of our health care system has become painfully clear, while the gaps between rich and poor, black and white, rural and urban, grow wider every day,” a statement on his website says. “Even before the coronavirus, our state’s health care system was in a crisis compounded by the failure of Georgia’s leaders to expand Medicaid.”

His campaign also focuses on economic justice, and he said that essential workers are not receiving essential wages to receive the level of benefits they deserve. He said he plans to advocate for those who want a livable wage.

Warnock is also the chairman of the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan organization that helps residents get registered to vote. He has published opinion articles on voting rights, including an Oct. 2018 piece on how voter suppression challenges democracy across the country.

“We’ve got to ensure that what we say at the end of the election cycle, ‘the people have spoken,’ that all of the people have gotten a chance to speak,” he said. “As chairman of the New Georgia Project and as a United States senator, I will ensure that we pass the Voting Rights Act which now bears the name of Congressman John Lewis and make sure voting is easier and not harder.”