After a marathon election battle culminated in victory on Tuesday night, all Sen. Raphael Warnock could do was smile. At the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Downtown, the Democratic incumbent stood before chanting supporters, staff, and family, thanking everyone along the way.
“After being on the ballot five times in the last two years — for the same job, I might add — I have been entrusted with a six-year term to serve in the Senate. I cannot express how thankful I am to you, the people of Georgia,” Warnock said.
After more than 3.5 million votes, it was the pastor from Ebenezer Baptist Church who came out on top against Republican nominee Herschel Walker. Warnock received 1,814,827 votes, or 51.35%. Walker got 1,719,376 votes (48.65%).
The showdown between Warnock and Walker was the first in the state between two Black contenders, and only the second in American history. Warnock made history nearly two years ago when he became the first Black U.S. senator ever to represent Georgia.
During his victory speech, Warnock explained why he chose to pursue politics, his family history, concerns about voter suppression in Georgia, and what motivates him.
Below is a transcript of his speech:
Hello, Georgia! Thank you, Georgia! We did it again!
Thank you so much for your trust in me, and to God be the glory!
After a long and hard-fought campaign, it is now my honor to utter the four most powerful words in a democracy: “The people have spoken.” I have often said that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children.
It is faith put in action. It is the sober recognition that we pray not only with our lips but with our legs.
And Georgia, you have you been doing just that — praying with your lips and with your legs, with your hands and your feet, with your head and your heart! And here we are standing together!
And Georgia, once again — as you did in 2021, when you sent an African American man and a Jewish man to the Senate in one fell swoop — you are sending a clear message to the country about the kind of world we want for our children.
I stand before you tonight a proud son of Savannah, Georgia, a coastal city known for its cobblestone streets and verdant town squares. Towering oak trees, centuries old and covered in gray Spanish moss, bend and beckon the lover of history and horticulture to this city by the sea. And like those oak trees in Savannah, my roots go deep down, and they stretch wide in the soil of Waycross, Georgia, and Burke County, and Screven County. In a sense, I am Georgia. A living example and embodiment of its history and its hope, of its pain and promise, the brutality and possibility.
I am grateful that my mother, Pastor Verlene Warnock, is here tonight. A teenager growing up in Waycross, Georgia, she used to pick somebody else’s cotton and tobacco. Tonight, she helped pick her youngest son to be a United States senator. My late father, Rev. Jonathan Warnock, a preacher and a junkman, has long entered into the light, but he, too, is cheering us on.
How grateful I am for my very large and beautiful family. I am glad that they are here tonight. I’m number 11 of 12, and so my parents clearly read the Scripture which says, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
We were short on money, but we were long on love, faith, and humor, and they poured into me and my 11 siblings the values and hard-work ethic that still guide me today.
That’s what’s led me to a life of service, it’s what’s led me in the pulpit, and it’s ultimately what’s led me to the U.S. Senate. …
I also want to thank my two children, Chloe and Caleb. You two are the brightest stars in my world, and as proud as I am to be a senator, I am most proud to be your dad. You help inspire me to do my part to build a world befitting of the curiosity, the creativity and the possibility that I see in your eyes and in the eyes of all of our children.
And on this night, where after being on the ballot five times in the last two years — for the same job, I might add — I have been entrusted with a six-year term to serve in the Senate. I cannot express how thankful I am to you, the people of Georgia.
I am deeply honored to be on this journey with you.
It’s an overwhelming statement for your neighbors to say we want you to represent us and our families in high office. And it’s something that inspires me every day.
Now there will be those, both in our state and across the country, who will point to our victory tonight and try to use it to argue there is no voter suppression in Georgia.
Let me be clear. The fact that millions of Georgians endured hours in lines and were willing to spend hours in line — lines that wrapped around buildings and went on for blocks, lines in the cold, lines in the rain — is most certainly not a sign voter suppression does not exist.
Instead, it is proof that you, the people, will not allow your voices to be silenced. And I am proud to stand with you.
I believe that democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea. The notion that each of us has within us a spark of the divine. … We all have value. And if we have value, we ought to have a voice.
That’s why when officials in our state tried to block Saturday voting, we sued them. And we won. And the people showed up in record numbers within the narrow confines of the time given to them by a state legislature that saw our electoral strength the last time and went after it with surgical precision.
The fact that voters worked so hard to overcome the hardship put in front of them does not eliminate the fact that hardship was put there in the first place.
Our democracy is stronger when more people are able to exercise their right to vote. This is something we all should be able to agree on. And it is something that I will continue to work on … until we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Democrats, Republicans, independents, should all be able to agree that whether you’re Black, brown, white, or any other color, no matter what neighborhood you live in, in the United States of America you should have the same ability to exercise your right to vote.
Tonight, I want to pay tribute to all those, over so many years, who have put their voices and their lives on the line to defend that right.
Martyrs of the movement like Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman; Viola Liuzzo, James Reeb. And those who stood up and spoke up like Fannie Lou Hamer. John Lewis, who walked across a bridge knowing that there were police waiting to brutalize him on the other side. Yet, by some stroke of destiny mingled with human determination, he walked across that bridge in order to build a bridge to a more just future.
And now, it is up to us to keep building that bridge. To keep doing the important moral work. And Georgia, I want you to know that even as I work for you, I intend to walk with you.
Because here is what I’ve learned from being a pastor. You cannot lead the people unless you love the people. And you cannot love the people unless you know the people. And the only way to know the people is to spend time among the people. You cannot serve me if you cannot see me. Georgia, I see you. Parents trying to get your kids through school, I see you. Students trying to pay your way and work your way through, I see you. Farmers who are an answer to our most basic prayer — give us this day our daily bread — and yet struggle to survive, to save the farm, I see you. Workers fighting for a livable wage and decent benefits, I see you. Small-business owners, I see you.
I will always be a voice for Georgia. All of Georgia. Whether you voted for me, or whether you didn’t, I will always be fighting for you, and I hope to serve our state in a way that makes you proud.
And I remain hopeful that Washington can focus more on what we all share in common rather than what sometimes divides us.
Too many folks in Washington enter the conversation everyday thinking they must be armed as gladiators, focused on that day’s fight, on getting what they can for their side, whoever they consider that to be. I just see things differently. I’m proud of my bipartisan work. And I hope to do more.
Because I believe first and foremost we are an American people and that we all have a covenant with one another. That we must live up to that uniquely American ideal of e pluribus unum: Out of many — one.
I believe in what Dr. King called the Beloved Community. Over the forces that seek to divide us, we choose a state — and a nation — that embraces all of us. We choose America.
I believe in the American dream. My own life is an iteration of its promise and possibility.
And therefore I believe that we can all do better, when we’re all doing better.
That’s what drives me to work to expand and lower the cost of health care, of creating jobs and standing up for the dignity of work, of addressing inequality and criminal justice reform and of taking on the existential threat of climate change that threatens our future.
And as I return to serve as your senator for another six years, it’s that combination of faith, love, and hard work that will keep me focused on making change on behalf of our state and our country.
Before I close — and you can never believe a former pastor when they say they’ll close — I want to thank some of the people that made this victory possible.
To my campaign staff, led by my incredible campaign manager and son of Schley County, Georgia, Quentin Fulks, thank you. I want to thank Lawrence Bell, who one day dropped on me a crazy idea — you should run for the Senate — and the rest is history.
I want to thank my Senate staff in Washington, led by Mark Libell, and my state team, led by Meredith Lilly, for their work on behalf of our state.
I want to thank the volunteers and all of you who believed that we could win. We won together. Asking that neighbor at the very end of your block to get to the polls. Turning to one another in our church pews. Talking about what is at stake here in Georgia. Talking about what a brighter future looks like for all of our families.
Volunteers in every corner of the state knocked doors to get people to the polls. And poll workers worked hard to ensure each and every Georgia voter could make their voice heard in their own democracy.
And tonight, all that hard work paid off. Thank you, Georgia.
I know for many these are hard times. Dark times. There is no question people are feeling the pain and the pinch — your children, your aging parents, your neighbors. We’ve been through a lot.
But the Scripture says the light shines in the darkness and the darkness overcometh it not, and I know with all my heart that our best days are ahead of us.
So tomorrow — we can all take a hard-earned rest. Just for a moment, though — because the work continues.
And I’m not confused about who I work for.
Some of you have heard me tell the story many times of how my dad would wake me up every morning, 6 a.m., no matter what time of year, no matter what day of the week, he’d say, “Son, get dressed, put your shoes on.”
Well Georgia, I’m up, I’m dressed, I’m ready, and I’ve got my shoes on. And I am so honored that you have placed your confidence in me one more time.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you! God bless you.
Keep the faith! Keep looking up.