Hamil R. HarrisLifestyle

From the Projects to the Pulpit — and Possibly the Senate

The Rev. Raphael Warnock is no stranger to pressure, high expectations and a big stage. But even the climb to the pulpit as a successor to the nation’s best-known Baptist preacher can’t match the latest stage the 51-year-old is trying to mount.

Warnock, pastor of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, is one of four Georgians competing for the state’s two seats in the U.S. Senate in a Jan. 5 runoff to settle inconclusive Nov. 3 results. The outcome will not only decide the balance of power in the Senate, but also raises the prospect that a Black man would represent the state in the Senate for the first time since post-Civil War Reconstruction.

Is that too much pressure for a rookie politician?

“But I guarantee that it’s not. I am committed to a life of service and my candidacy for the United States Senate is a continuation of that life-long commitment,” Warnock told the Washington Informer in an exclusive interview last week.

“I do see myself as a vessel in this moment and I am I humbled to be part of this process,” Warnock said. “It is my aspiration to build a just and inclusive society …and it means that young people regardless of their zip code can embrace the American dream.”

Warnock’s interview was witnessed by students at the University of Maryland College Park and one student asked about the possibility of a conflict of interests.

“There is no contradiction between those two things. I believe firmly in the separation between church and state. We have to unpack what that means. It certainly doesn’t mean that a pastor can’t serve

“People of faith serve in elective office and what they bring, I would hope is not their sectarian doctrine as a religious community, but their values that are the same values that is affirmed in all of the great religious traditions: Justice, mercy, compassion and love of our neighbor.”

On Nov. 3 no Senate candidate in Georgia drew more votes than Warnock, who garnered 1,617,035 –33 percent of the vote– against incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a conservative Republican and supporter of President Donald Trump, who attracted 1,273,214 votes—26 percent.

In the other race, Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is best known as a documentary filmmaker, faces Republican incumbent Sen. David Purdue, another Trump supporter. Ossoff won 2,374,519 votes—47.9 percent—versus 2,462,617 –49.7 percent.

Under Georgia law, statewide candidates must receive more than 50 percent of the vote.
“In the general election, I finished first,” Warnock told the Informer. “Only in America is my story possible and what my career has been about is bending that ark what Dr. King used to talk about. Dr. King always said the mark of the moral universe is bending toward justice and my work has always been about bending the ark toward justice.”

Warnock said Georgia is showing how the face of once segregated state is changing.

“It is such a promising moment in the state of Georgia You have a young Jewish man. The son of an immigrant who came to this country when he was just 23 and an African American man the pastor of the church where Dr. King served, running for the two United States senators from the state of Georgia in the heart of the old South.”

Since 1992, the color of Georgia politics has gone from Republican red to Democratic blue because of a migration of people from northern states to the South. Many of these voters were mobilized by candidate Stacy Abrams who mobilized thousands of voters when she ran for governor two years ago.

“A couple of months ago I had the sad duty of eulogizing my church member Congressman John Lewis,” Warnock said. “John Lewis, Dr. King, Dorothy Cotton, Fannie Lou Hammer, Ella Baker, Andrew Young, they didn’t have any reason to think that they would win. They understood that God was always right and to stand up for what was right in these defining moments of America.”

“As one from public housing who knows what it’s like to be profiled in a grocery store,” Warnock said. “I think I bring a particular perspective in legislating in the most consequential deliberative body in the country The United States Senate.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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