AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Rev. Raphael Warnock is well known as the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, but he is stepping into the political arena. Rev. Warnock is on the Georgia ballot under the highly contested race for United States Senate against Kelly Loeffler – who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp when Sen. Johnny Isakson announced his retirement. This week Rev. Warnock joined Brad means o talk about the key issues that are important to him, his platform, and that he hopes are important to voters.
Brad Means: Reverend, thank you for being here. I do appreciate your time.
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Thank you, Brad, it’s great to be here with you.
Brad Means: Listen, I just wanted to get people to get to know you a little bit right here off the top. And I’ll just ask you, why in the world you decided to run for Senate, there are some 20 plus people running for this seat with you, did somebody approach you and say, “Please do this,” or have you always wanted to do it?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Thank you so very much. It’s wonderful to have a chance to talk to the folks. Listen, my run for the United States Senate is the continuation of a lifelong commitment to service. I’m the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church, it’s the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr. But long before I came to that church, I was a kid growing up in Savannah, Georgia. One of 12 children in my family, I’m number 11, I’m the baby next to the baby and the first college graduate in my family. I went to Morehouse College, I often stay on a full paid scholarship. I say that because the year I ended the tuition room and board at Morehouse was equal to my family’s income, but I had a commitment. I wanted to earn a college degree and I wanted my life to mean something. And with all the love that my folks poured into me and the people in that community I grew up in, in Savannah, Georgia, who helped me to believe in myself. I went on to Morehouse College, the deep sense of a work ethic, personal responsibility, but someone also gave me a Pell Grant and some low interest student loans. So I know the importance of public policy and helping people to live their best lives. And so, I’m running because all of these years later, it’s harder now for kids growing up in struggling families than it was for me. And I’d be deeply honored if the people of Georgia would make me their representative in the Senate. So I can champion the cause of young people who are struggling across this state, seniors who are struggling with the cost of prescription drugs, the need of affordable healthcare.
Brad Means: Reverend, you were one of the last babies born in your family, so maybe this is no big deal to you, but you’re one of the last people listed on the ballot, they did that darn thing in alphabetical order. And I know it’s important to you and your campaign to get people, to look for the W on their ballot, right?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: That’s right. My last name is Warnock so I have to tell you Brad, my name is right where it was in elementary school, when the teacher said, “Time to line up finally for lunch or recess,” I was always the kid next to the last kid in the line, and I’m just getting over that by the way. And here I am near the end of the ballot. And so folks gotta look down and look for Warnock, there 21 people in this race, I’m number 20. I’m down at the bottom, but I have to tell you, I’ve spent my career fighting for the folks who are somewhere near the bottom, who don’t have lobbyists in Washington DC, so I think I’m right where I belong. And Hey, I’m a preacher somewhere I read that the last shall be first.
Brad Means: Amen. I was gonna ask you about your church, it has such an incredibly rich history, as you mentioned, you’re the fifth pastor ever at Ebeneezer. How are you juggling the nonstop life on the campaign trail and your church duties?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Well, I think part of what makes it easier is that in the course of the campaign, I’m talking about the things that I’ve been talking about for the last 15 years as the pastor of Ebenezer church. I’ve never thought that my service ends at the church door, that’s where it starts. And it is that commitment to the law of love as it lives in the public square that has always kept me in the public square, long before I was running, I was standing up for affordable healthcare in this state when Georgia refused to expand Medicaid, after the Affordable Care Act was passed. I went to the governor’s office and he and other activists, they used to sit in. I was arrested trying to get us to expand Medicaid in this state. And I’ve continued to stand up. The last time I went to the US Capitol, I was fighting for a budget that reflects our values as they were giving a $2 trillion tax giveaway to the richest of the rich while taking resources from the children’s healthcare program. I stood up again in the great tradition of civil disobedience. The Capitol police, they were polite and professional, but they escorted me again. I’m running to give them a chance to escort me one more time, this time to the United States Senate, where I can stand up for ordinary people who deserve a Senator who will represent their business in the US Senate.
Brad Means: As we record this interview, we’re right here in the middle of the Supreme court confirmation hearings. What do you think of the fact that the hearings taking place and what do you think of the president’s nominee Judge Barrett?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Well, I’ve always said that we shouldn’t be rushing through this process, to sit in the Supreme court is an amazing thing. It’s a sacred undertaking, this process of confirmation, it should not be rushed. It should not be over politicized as we’re witnessing in this moment. I mean, people are voting and there’s a confirmation hearing going on at the same time. I think too often in Washington, the focus is on the politicians, who’s winning, and who’s losing, who’s up and who’s down. And at some point we’ve got to realize that at the end of the day, we are one American people and we’ve gotta figure out how to work this thing out together. And so the naked use of power at any cost, I think, it’s its’ own moral concern. And we’ll see how all of this plays out over the confirmation hearings, but Mitch McConnell should be held to his own standard. The hypocrisy is just, is striking. He prevented a nomination hearing just four short years ago saying that we should hear from the American people before a confirmation hearing. And all this is on him to show us what’s different between 2020 and 2016.
Brad Means: What if you do win the race and you do become a US Senator and you get in that position of power, would you be in favor of if other Democrats are in similar positions as well, stacking the court that is to say, putting enough justices, adding enough justices to the Supreme court where it sort of diminishes the conservative majority that’s there now, would you want to do that?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Well, unfortunately, the president has been packing the court. He’s been rushing through all of these judicial nominees through our federal judiciary. He’s appointed dozens of judges, they’re ideologues. Many of them have barely seen the inside of a courtroom and they’re very young. So we will be dealing with the implications of their confirmation for a generation or more, but I don’t wanna get ahead of myself. I’m still laying out my case before the people of Georgia. And they’re hopeful that I’ll get a chance to represent them in the United States Senate. It’s important that the work of confirming judges, but, a week after the election, there will be a hearing regarding the Affordable Care Act. I’m keeping my eyes on them because I’m hailing from a state where we’ve got 500,000 people in the Medicaid gap. And I’m running against a fitting United States Senator and a sitting Congressman, who both think it’s a good idea to get rid of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic. I was in Southwest Georgia this weekend and the people there they’re worried because their hospital, Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center is about to close. That’s a one-two punch, not just in terms of rural health care, but also the economy in these rural areas. I’m very concerned about that and very focused on it.
Brad Means: There’s such an effort to get healthcare to the people who need it, especially as you mentioned, those rural parts of the Peach State, Augusta University right here in town has made a big push for getting doctors in those areas. Do you have people coming up to you on the campaign trail, Reverend and saying “I’m sick” or “I’m hurt and I can’t get medical help.”
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Oh, absolutely. And they’re very worried. People are sick And they’re very concerned about whether or not they’re going to be able to have healthcare. I don’t know, who thinks it’s a good idea for us to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny you by having a pre-existing condition, we’ve got 1.8 million Georgians with pre-existing conditions. And because of COVID, we will have many, many more and in real sense being a woman means you have a pre-existing condition. And so, people are very concerned. They’re wondering, who’s standing up for them in Washington, DC, these issues are not theoretical for me, I’m a pastor. And so I spend time, at the bedside of people who are sick. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the waiting rooms of critical care units while loved ones are concerned. Not only about the person in the next room who is ailing, but also wondering how they’re gonna handle those medical bills. The policy, public policy is a matter of life and death. You can’t lead the people unless you love the people. And that’s the muscle I’ve had a long time to practice exercising. The last 15 years as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church is what my life has been about. And what I hope to do is translate this commitment to service and to the law of love to public policy.
Brad Means: Reverend Raphael Warnock is our special guest on The Means Report, He’s a candidate for the United States Senate from the great state of Georgia. We’re gonna talk about the pandemic, We’re gonna talk about bringing jobs to Georgia and much more as our conversation with Reverend Warnock continues on The Means Report.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report. We’re talking to Reverend Raphael Warnock, a candidate for Senate in Georgia. He’s the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church has been in Atlanta for a long time now. Reverend Warnock, I wanted to talk to you about jobs. So many people out there are out of work and they want to be employed and paid well, how can you help get people back to work in Georgia?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Well, this is something that I’m very concerned about and I’ve seen face to face as a pastor and now as a candidate on the trail. People are feeling very insecure economically. And in the midst of this COVID-19 challenge, a lot of folks have lost jobs or worried that they will lose their job. Listen, I think it’s time for us to think past how we survived this pandemic and began even now to start planning to thrive on the other side of the pandemic. Workers deserve to enjoy some of the prosperity that they are producing in this country. And so, we need the minimum wage to be a living wage, but we also need to think past this pandemic. I think it’s time to invest in America, to invest in an infrastructure that’s worthy of who we say we are as an American people. There was a time when we used to think big that we thought that that’s part of what it meant to be an American people. And we did big things. We built the National Highway System, and prior to that folks said, “How are you gonna do that?” You mean, an Interstate System that connects the whole country, that’s impossible, but here we have it and now we take it for granted. Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” And so, what I would like to see us do in this 20 year of 2020 is to bring a kinda clear-eyed vision to the public space, the spaces that we share together. We need to rebuild our bridges, our streets, and our roads and our highways. We need to start thinking more seriously about high speed rail kind of connectivity in terms of transportation across this state that connects people to jobs, connects goods and services to consumers. We need to invest in green energy jobs that create jobs that are sustainable in the future while creating the kind of energy grid that is environmentally sustainable. And so I think economic sustainability and ecological sustainability are connected in this world in which the reality of climate change is upon us as here right now. I think we should approach this the same way we approach so many other crises in our country.
Brad Means: Are you worried about being…
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Go ahead.
Brad Means: I’m sorry, go ahead, Reverend, I’m sorry.
Rev. Raphael Warnock: No, no, I think that, look, we went through the great recession and while that was going on, we bailed out the biggest banks in this country. when 9/11 happened, we knew we had to respond and so we found a way to stand up and respond. I think if we would invest in the infrastructure in our country. The workers in America are so innovative, so creative, so motivated contrary to what we hear about working people in Washington these days, and they’ll stand up and they’ll make good on that investment and we’ll position our economy to be competitive for the next 50 and 100 years.
Brad Means: I love that you’re talking about life after the pandemic, it’s fun, it’s hopeful and optimistic to look at life when this thing is behind us. But as we navigate the pandemic together, right now, you have teachers who are concerned about being in school, not all of them, but some are concerned about being in school. So I wanted to ask you what you thought about kids being back in school in Georgia, is it too soon? Is that the right time?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: We should pay attention to the science. And if it feels like we’re in a fog, I think that fog has made all the more dense by the nonsense of politics and political speech that sole focused on winning the new cycle. And so focused on winning the next election that is not thinking enough about how we win the future for the next generation. We want our schools reopened, but we want them to reopen safely. And those are things that are not opposed to each other. We can do both of those things at the same time, but we have to listen to our scientists and we have to give teachers and other frontline workers, the protections that they need in order to open safely. Look, I’m the pastor of a church and a Baptist church no less so Sunday morning is a place and a time where there’s a lot of energy in our sanctuary. I’m used to preaching in front of a crowd of folks who are engaged and in my church, they talk back to the preacher while he’s preaching. Well, since March, since March, I’ve been preaching to an empty sanctuary, rerecording my services, and then having to stream live, live stream them on Sunday morning, It’s not the same. These are adjustments that all of us are having to make, but we’re doing it, not out of a sense of fear, as much as out of a sense of love. We wanna keep people alive and keep our loved ones alive. And so, I think what we’ve gotta do is, we’ve gotta tighten our belts, be focused discipline, and with the kind of joyful spirit and while holding onto one another, even while socially distant, press through this together. And the sooner we get serious about that with a national strategy, a wise strategy, the sooner we can push down this curve and begin to see ourselves on the other side.
Brad Means: Reverend, do you trust the voting system in our country, in Georgia, especially not just the in-person voting that we’re seeing right now, but mailing a ballot in people are worried that their ballot might get lost or stolen, do you trust the whole system?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: I can tell you that in the state of Georgia, we’ve been mailing in balance for a long time now we didn’t just start that this year, and it’s perfectly safe to vote by mail. And in fact, I’m encouraging voters to do it. It is a tool we certainly need to use in the middle of a pandemic. You shouldn’t delay, don’t panic and don’t delay mailing your ballot, get it there so that it’s there in time to be counted. If for some reason you can’t vote by mail, then vote it in person early and then spend election day, getting people close to you to polls. We shouldn’t any longer be talking about election day, it’s an election season. And I have to tell you I’m very encouraged and inspired by what I’ve seen over the last three days of early voting, Georgia voters are lining up at the polls. The outpouring we see suggest that people really understand that elections are a matter of life and death. And there’s so much at stake, it’s difficult to overstate it. I’m disappointed that our state leaders haven’t found a way to better accommodate voters. I don’t think you should be waiting in line, you shouldn’t have to wait in line 10 hours to vote. That is a form of voter suppression. The good news is that people are standing up anyhow, and we need new leadership so that we can transform this situation.
Brad Means: I have time for just one more question, maybe about a minute, a little bit more than a minute. And that’s just to go back to church now that you’re doing it virtually, I bet you have more young people engaged ’cause they can watch the sermon on their phone So I guess my question is, are more kids listening to you and is our future in good hands with them?
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Oh, there’s no question that our futures is in good hands in the hands of young people. And they are the reason why I’m running. Look, I’ve got a four year old daughter and a son who’s almost two. And if you really wanna know why I’m running for the Senate, I’m running because of them. I think my children are gonna be fine, but there was a way in which my children are not going to be okay unless other people’s children are okay. And so I’m deeply honored to be running for the US Senate. I think the church and business a whole lot of things are going to be different on the other side of the pandemic. And so, we’ve gotta begin to build infrastructure. I was moving across rural Georgia this weekend We’ve got whole swaths of this state where there’s very little broadband. We need an infrastructure program in our country that embraces the future of all of our Children.
Brad Means: Wow, Reverend Warnock, I thank you so much for taking time off the busy campaign trail and answering our questions today. And I wish you all the best as we enter this home stretch of the race for Senate.
Rev. Raphael Warnock: Thank you for having me.
Brad Means: Absolutely, Reverend Raphael Warnock, our special guest today.