On Nov. 3, Georgia will be the only state to fill both its contested Senate seats. One election will serve as a true referendum on President Donald Trump’s administration and Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointment of archconservative Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) to the seat just under a year ago. This race, along with the contest between senior Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and investigative journalist Jon Ossoff, may prove to be Georgia’s most pivotal statewide contests in generations.

Georgians should indubitably vote for Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, a Savannah native and senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, over incumbent Loeffler, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Democrat Matt Lieberman and others. Warnock’s politics are rooted in his faith and compassionately  address the pressing issues of our time. He is exactly who we need to guide Georgians through an uncontrolled pandemic and worsening economic recession.

In a field of 21 candidates vying for the seat in this special election, Warnock’s continued pursuit of faith-based activism makes him stand out. Leading the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s former congregation, Warnock has established himself as one of Georgia’s most prominent clergymen. His spirituality aligns him with the 85% of Georgians identifying with one or more faiths, but he has not merely used his pulpit to preach. He’s used it to transform his community.

As a pastor, Warnock fought for clemency for Troy Davis, a Black Georgian convicted of and eventually executed for the 1989 murder of a police officer. While Warnock was ultimately unsuccessful in staying Davis’ execution, his advocacy against the state’s decision to kill Davis for a crime he may not have committed demonstrates the kind of ironclad morality lacking in today’s Congress. As our nation works to eliminate racial injustice and police brutality, Warnock’s firm convictions establish him as the right candidate to tackle these pressing issues across Georgia.

His activism extends far beyond criminal justice; in March 2019, Warnock brought former Vice President Al Gore and Rev. William Barber II to his church for an interfaith discussion on climate change. Five years prior, he led a sit-in at Georgia’s state Capitol against the obstruction of Medicaid expansion — a move that would have assisted Black Georgians in obtaining health equity. Following former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams’ narrow loss to Kemp, Warnock led the voting rights nonprofit New Georgia Project until he announced his Senate candidacy. Warnock has a strong set of values that Georgia so desperately needs.

Warnock is more than a list of principles; he also has a coherent vision for the future of Georgia and our nation. He calls himself a “Matthew 25 Christian, where Jesus says, ‘I was hungry, and you fed me. I was naked, and you gave me clothes. I was in prison, I was sick, and you visited me.’” His spirituality has provided him a deep sense of empathy, and his platform reflects those beliefs. He has linked the pitfalls of the death penalty to white supremacy, proposed a sweeping slate of environmental reforms and, even in a state as profoundly religious as Georgia, supported breaking down barriers to abortion.

Many of those positions are far left for a Southern politician, but Warnock’s ability to ground them in his spirituality broadens his appeal to Georgians of differing beliefs. King used a similar and often successful strategy to fight during the civil rights and anti-war movements. It is that rare combination of morality and progressive ideas that will allow Warnock to effectively represent Georgians’ values and meet their needs. 

Loeffler and Collins, on the other hand, have failed to adequately represent Georgians’ interests. At the start of the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., Loeffler proved herself untrustworthy with fishy stock trades that spoke to a lack of concern for Georgians’ lives. Both fervently support Trump, and each has thus far spent the campaign trying to outdo the other’s conservatism. Even though around 32% of the Georgia population is African American, neither has shown an ounce of sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement. They represent the old Georgia: vitriolic, racist and conservative. Warnock represents Georgia’s future — values and faith intertwined to create social change in a vibrant, diverse swing state. Simply put, he will help transform politics for the better in Georgia.

This special election is complicated by the fact that more than 20 candidates will split the vote, meaning the likely result is a runoff between the top Democratic and Republican vote-getters this January. Lieberman is the only other Democratic candidate who has garnered any significant attention, which has been mostly negative. A recent poll puts his support at just 3%, compared to 36% for Warnock, who leads the race. As pressure mounts on Lieberman to drop out, we encourage Georgia voters to side with Warnock over Lieberman and all others in the race.   

Warnock’s past activism on criminal justice reform, climate change action and expansion of Medicaid are emblematic of his exemplary character. He will lead with the interests of Georgians at heart, something that has been sorely lacking during Loeffler’s disastrous tenure. As Georgians begin filling in absentee ballots or prepare to go to the polls on Election Day, there is no clearer choice in the special election for our next senator than Warnock. 

The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Sahar Al-Gazzali, Brammhi Balarajan, Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Kemal Budak, Jake Busch, Sara Khan, Demetrios Mammas, Meredith McKelvey, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas, Leah Woldai and Lynnea Zhang.