Georgia senate race between Loeffler and Warnock will be decided in January runoff

Atlanta Dream owner Kelly Loeffler and Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor Raphael Warnock will contend for U.S. senator in 2021

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At least one of the Georgia Senate races won’t be decided until 2021—but at least we now know who the contenders for the seat will be.

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Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler and Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor Rev. Raphael Warnock will have to win in a runoff that takes place on Jan. 5. As neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote, by Georgia law, a runoff must be held to decide the victor.

Loeffler, 49, was appointed to the seat in 2019 to replace retiring Republican senator Johnny Isakson. Warnock emerged out of a crowded field that once included 20 candidates, according to Vox.com. Loeffler was victorious over Republican contender Congressman Doug Collins, who conceded to and then endorsed Loeffler. The two split the Republican vote in Georgia.

Loeffler is the controversial co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA team whose players campaigned for her opponent after she denounced Black Lives Matter in a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert in July.

“The truth is, we need less — not more politics in sports,” she said in the letter. “In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote.”

According to NPR. com, Loeffler doubled down this summer at a campaign appearance in Winder, Georgia, saying, “There is no room for racism in this country. We cannot have it. But there is an organization, different from the saying, an organization called Black Lives Matter founded on Marxist principles. Marxism supports socialism.”

During the WNBA season in the bubble in Palmetto, Florida, the league, which is more than 80% Black women, became a major force in social justice initiatives involving Black athletes. That included supporting the Milwaukee Bucks’ August playoff game boycott after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Members of the Dream asked Loeffler to sell her interest in the team but she has refused to do so and while she was once actively involved in the team, she has less to do with the day-to-day now that she’s a senator, according to The Washington Post.

Minnesota Lynx v Seattle Storm - Game Two
Shenise Johnson #42 of the Minnesota Lynx walks across the court prior to Game Two of their Third Round playoff against the Seattle Storm at Feld Entertainment Center on September 24, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. Johnson’s T-shirt reads “Black Lives Matter”. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

On Aug. 4, Atlanta Dream players wore T-shirts in support of Warnock.

Warnock, 51, is the pastor of Atlanta’s storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, once the church where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was co-pastor with his father until his assassination in 1968. Warnock has been the pastor there since 2005. In January, he announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate. The Savannah, Georgia native comes from a family of Pentecostal preachers and is one of 11 children. In running for Senate, Warnock told the New York Times:

“Yes, it is, for some people, an extraordinary step for a clergyperson to operate beyond the pulpit and enter the rough-and-tumble of politics,” Warnock said. “I am aware of the risk. But I am embracing it because I think the times demand it.”

Despite his current position at the influential church, Warnock is a progressive who is in favor of both LGBTQ+ rights and abortion rights. He believes in traditional Christian principles, like taking care of the poor and healing the troubled, but is divorced from former wife Oulèye Ndoye as of earlier this year.

“I’m a pastor so I’m reaching out to everybody … I think there are a lot of people hurting — white and Black, urban and rural,” Warnock told Politico last month. “And so we’ve been moving across the state intentionally trying to talk to all of those voters.”

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event on November 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Warnock will face Loeffler with a set of impressive endorsements in his back pocket – everyone from Stacey Abrams to Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama, according to multiple reports.

Loeffler’s WNBA controversy is not her only one – though she was cleared by the U.S. Senate ethics committee in June, questions were raised about her selloff of millions of dollars of stocks after a January coronavirus briefing, Reuters reported. Some of those stocks were in companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Loeffler and her husband, Jeff Sprecher, who is the chairman of the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, are worth more than $500M.

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