West End resident Britney Ball was “ecstatic” late Tuesday night when she learned Raphael Warnock had beaten Herschel Walker in their highly publicized U.S. Senate runoff election.
The 34-year-old Ball, an engaged mother of two, was at the Rock Steady Caribbean restaurant in West Atlanta with 12 of her friends around 11:30 p.m. when she scrolled through Instagram and saw the news about Warnock’s victory.
“I said, ‘Yes! We did it!’” Ball recalled on Wednesday.
“My reaction was, ‘Great job, everyone.’ I’m not a fan of Herschel Walker, so Warnock basically took it back,” she said, regarding Warnock’s incumbent Senate seat.
Warnock’s victory gives Democrats a 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate, which will make it easier for them to pass legislation that positively impacts Black Georgians. The Democratic Party tends to favor policy positions supported by a majority of Black Americans.
Black voters who spoke to Capital B Atlanta after Warnock’s win expressed optimism about what the senator will do for them during his first full term in office.
Rena Bowen, 83, of Mozley Park cast her ballot for Warnock. She said she wants the Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor to help tackle crime in Georgia, which has been on the rise in recent years.
“As far as shootings and stuff, just cleaning up our community and nightclubs, as well as just helping out the homeless, for sure,” Bowen said. “I have faith in him for doing that.”
Smyrna resident Gerard Hall, 40, cast his ballot for Warnock at the Buckhead Library on Tuesday. He said he wants the Democratic senator to do something to combat inflation.
“Prices are going up on just simple day-to-day activities, groceries, gas,” Hall said. “I know I’m spending more on groceries. Rent’s going up, interest rates, things like that.”
“I don’t know if he’s able to rectify that or remedy that, but maybe [there’s] something that could help, some more tax breaks or things of that nature, or things that could help the everyday person as far as the day-to-day.”
Addressing health care
Addressing health care disparities is another way voters said Warnock can positively change the lives of Black Georgia residents during his first full term in office.
Other health care issues, such as reproductive rights, are on the minds of Black voters who cast ballots for Warnock.
Buckhead resident Catherine DelMonte, 32, says she hopes Warnock will be an abortion rights defender with a focus on women’s rights. “I think that everything he stands for is in line with what I believe in, and I think Georgia needs some progress,” she said.
Some of that progress might come in the form of Warnock’s potential influence on legislation that affects Black Georgians.
Affecting the laws
It was judges and Supreme Court justices appointed by former President Donald Trump who led to the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the momentary suspension of President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program earlier this year.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization resulted in the reinstatement of Georgia’s 2019 abortion restriction law, which is expected to have an outsized effect on Black women in the state, who received 65% of abortions here in 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Appointing judges to federal benches is one thing the U.S. Senate can do without input from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, according to Morehouse College political science professor Adrienne Jones.
“With Warnock there, it’ll be a little easier,” Jones said, regarding appointing judges who favor Democratic policies. “Some of those judges actually sit in Georgia or sit in cities and states where you have family. That makes a difference.”
Jones is also confident Warnock’s two years spent working and campaigning for the Senate will help him. “He seems well-prepared, and now he’s had some experience,” she said.
Republicans have blocked passage of key Democratic legislation in recent years, but Warnock has worked with GOP members to pass bipartisan bills that impact Black Georgians.
Using federal dollars to support Georgia farmers, infrastructure development, job creation, and military veterans are things Warnock has accomplished over the past two years. The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes provisions to fund broadband development in rural areas of the state, where many Black folks live. Warnock is also a member of three Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry subcommittees, where he has worked on legislation to benefit Black farmers.
GOP strategist Leo Smith says bringing federal dollars back to Georgia is something Democrats and Republicans tend to support.
“Senator Warnock has maintained support for the farmers in Georgia, and Senator Warnock has maintained support for the military bases in Georgia,” he said. “Now that Warnock is reelected, Republicans will continue to help him maintain the type of federal dollars that were coming here previously.”
Hopes for the future
Cascade resident Cosco Jones voted early in the Senate runoff. The 39-year-old considers himself “old school” when it comes to revealing who he supported. Jones said regardless of whether Warnock or Walker won, he’d hold both the same standards.
“I would want [Warnock] to be intentional about being for the people and not get caught up in the cultural norms of what goes on in politics,” he said. “I think that’s going to be very challenging for him to do.”
Hall says he’s not politically savvy, but he’s glad that Walker didn’t win because he saw the Republican nominee as a “stand-in” for the party. Warnock, he hopes, will bring some authenticity back to Washington with him.
“I feel like he speaks for the people and I feel like he’s just a realist,” he said. “I just have a feeling that he’s more up for the job.”