SENATE MIDTERMS 2022: Can Raphael Warnock retain his seat in battleground Georgia?

Battleground state is key to Dems retaining the Senate, and Warnock's record could either prove to be his greatest asset or biggest liability


                            SENATE MIDTERMS 2022: Can Raphael Warnock retain his seat in battleground Georgia?
Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks at his Labor Canvass Launch at IBEW Local 613 on January 05, 2021, in Marietta, Georgia. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

In 2020, Reverand Rapahel Warnock helped deliver a shocking upset to the Republicans by taking one of Georgia's two Senate seats. Now, he has to repeat that upset in 2022 if the Democrats are to keep their control over the chamber. Like with 2020, he's facing a highly contentious challenge though, with Georiga seen as a key swing state. 

Right now, Warnock's biggest challenger is former NFL star Herschel Walker, who is backed by former President Donald Trump. However, Walker is a long way away from posing a serious challenge in terms of fundraising. According to the latest figures, Warnock out-raised Walker by around 15 million in hand. But with months to go, those figures could flip, especially if Trump gets more involved in the race. 

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Needless to say, there's a lot riding on Warnock now. The Senator not only has to convince Georgians he's the right man for Democrats, but the right man to reach across the aisle and connect with swing voters, and possibly even some Republicans. Whether he can do that or not remains to be seen, but judging by his record so far, Warnock clearly stands a good chance. 



 

 

Warnock's Senate record

A pastor for 15 years,  Warnock's profile before becoming a Senator was seen as the ideal fit for the Democrats. He grew up in public housing and lived in one of the US' poorest cities - Baltimore. He led a congregation not just spiritually but on key public matters like HIV/AIDS awareness, access to abortion, and even protested against the GOP opposition to Medicaid. He also fought for voting rights and fair pay, positions he took with him to the US Senate.

In the Senate, Warnock has adopted a strong centrist approach, aligned with Senators Angus King and Jon Tester according to GovTrack. That means he's managed to toe the party line, without taking extreme positions like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema. In terms of bills sponsored, it may not appear as if Warnock has done much, but it can often be quite misleading. He was the primary sponsor of S. 1031, a bill to study disparities associated with race and ethnicity on benefits provided by the VA Department. 

Beyond that, he's largely voted with the Democrats, missing on average 2.2% of all votes in his time, which is about the average for all serving Senators. He's supported coronavirus stimulus checks, federal voting laws, and Medicaid expansion, delivering on the promises he made on the campaign trail. He's also been outspoken against Georgia's new voting laws, once calling it "a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights." That may show Georgians that he sticks to his promises, and stands by beliefs held long-held, something that's become increasingly rare as politicians jump positions after being elected. 

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) listens during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Bill Clark-Pool/Getty Images)

 

Record presents issues

While he's clearly a man who won't shift with the winds, Warnock's record could also prove to be his undoing. Given that Trump still carries a lot of support in the state, and Virginia recently elected a Republican Governor, the GOP will be keenly eyeing Warnock as a soft target for them to attack. On that note, his record could be an issue, since it stands against pretty much everything the GOP is for. 

An RNC spokesperson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "His voting record has already been one of the most, if not the most, liberal voting record of any senator right now and it definitely does not match with traditional Georgia values." In 2020, Warnock didn't have a record to speak about, so he was able to win purely based on his character, some Republicans argue. Now that's he's got a record, he'll have to defend it, which could be tough under the current circumstances. 

Not only will Warnock have to contest with the still-strong pro-Trump sentiment in the state, but he'll also have to go above and beyond to convince a state he's still the man for the job just months after they voted for a Republican Governor. Glenn Youngkin's win will certainly factor heavily into the election, whether Warnock wants it to or not. So if he is to be reelected in 2022, he'll have to convince Georgians that his positions were right for them, and the US. Whether he can do that in the face of a massive red wave remains to be seen, but for now, it appears it's working from the way he's raising money.

The 2022 midterms are scheduled for November 8, 2022. 

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