Sen. Raphael Warnock lived up to his reverend title on Sunday, preaching about the importance of his Senate race during a lively campaign rally at St. John Baptist Church in Gainesville.
Warnock is running against Herschel Walker for one of Georgia's two U.S. Senate seats. The winner will be decided in the runoff election Tuesday, Dec. 6. Neither candidate was able to secure more than half the vote in the general election, which is required to avoid a runoff in Georgia. Less than 1% of the vote separated the candidates, with Warnock ahead by about 37,000 votes.
Warnock first won the seat in a special election two years ago, which also went to a runoff, giving Democrats a razor-thin majority in the Senate. He is now seeking a full six-year term.
The national stakes for the Warnock-Walker race aren't quite as high with Democrats winning 50 Senate seats in the Nov. 8 election. Even if Walker wins, Democrats will have an effective majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris wielding a tiebreaking vote.
Warnock emphasized the importance of his race and urged everyone to get out and vote.
"It's an emergency. We can't just have anybody represent 11 million people for six years. It's an emergency," Warnock repeated several times, rallying the crowd to a crescendo of whoops and applause before exiting the podium.
Sue Perkins, 71, made the drive from White County to attend the rally. A longtime Democrat and poll watcher, she said a vote for Warnock is "obvious,” arguing he's far more qualified than Walker and stands up for the interests of the "everyday people."
When asked about the stakes of the election, she said a Warnock win will provide some buffer against more conservative Democrats like Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who have at times blocked President Joe Biden's agenda.
"It's just going to be a lot easier for us to do the work that we need to do in Washington," she said. “That's the bottom line. It means less red tape, more Democrats on committees."
Warnock spoke about uplifting the working class, investing in public schools, restoring a woman's right to abortion, addressing prescription drug costs and the "existential threat of climate change." He also said democracy itself is on the line.
"In a real sense, democracy itself is on the ballot," he said. "We need folks who are committed to that proposition that the four most powerful words in a democracy are, 'The people have spoken.'"
Warnock acknowledged that he was "preaching to the choir" but said his race against Walker transcends the political divide between left and right.
"For your Republican friends, tell them, 'Look, we understand we have political differences. That's part of what makes this country great.' But we're not speaking in general. The choice in front of you is the choice in front of you. And in spite of our political differences, and they're real, this particular race is not about Republican or Democrat. It's not about right versus left. It's about right versus wrong.'"
He also took jabs at his opponent's character and competence.
"How do you tell your children to tell the truth — and vote for Herschel Walker, who won't tell you the truth about the basic facts of his life? I'm in church, so that's all I'm going to say about that."
Walker will stop by Curt's Restaurant in Oakwood on Monday in his fourth campaign visit to Hall County this year.
As of Dec. 2, nearly 1.5 million people had voted early in Georgia, including several record-setting days.
Turnout for early voting in Hall County was nearly three times higher than it was in the first two days of the general election.
The absentee-by-mail ballot box is located in the Elections Office on the lower level of the Hall County Government Center. Voters can deliver ballots to the drop box from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and all ballots must be received by the Elections Office by 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 6.
There is no voting on Saturday or Monday before the Dec. 6 runoff, which is the last day to vote. Polls close at 7 p.m.
Voting precincts in Hall include Flowery Branch City Hall, Oakwood First United Methodist Church, West Hall Baptist Church, Flat Creek Baptist Church and Lanier Point Church.