11 questions for Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock

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Raphael Warnock
Raphael Warnock

Photograph courtesy of Raphael Warnock campaign

When Republican Senator Johnny Isakson announced he would leave his U.S. Senate seat at the end of 2019 due to health concerns, Governor Brian Kemp appointed Republican Kelly Loeffler, who has served for all of 2020. This race is unusual in that it is a “jungle primary”—meaning a primary election was not held earlier this year to narrow down the field of candidates. As such, there are 21 candidates on the ballot.

Loeffler is running to keep her seat, and as of publication time, has not yet provided responses to our questions. Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock‘s responses are below. You can read Republican Doug Collins’s responses here, and you can read Democratic candidate Matt Lieberman’s responses here.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

If you’re elected, what does your first day in office look like?
On day one in the U.S. Senate, I would work to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare—especially considering our current public health crisis—including improving the Affordable Care Act and ensuring protections for people with pre-existing conditions. I’d also look forward to working across the aisle to lower the cost of prescription drugs through price negotiations, including pushing for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to be empowered to negotiate lower drug pricing (as was advocated for in the ACA) and advocate for more ability to work with our partner countries, like Canada, to bring in prescriptions to market at lower cost but the same level of quality and safety. At the federal level, we can push for Congress to roll back the power of special interests, like big pharmaceutical companies, by imposing caps on the maximum price that can be charged for life-saving drugs like insulin, and limiting the excessive use of patents to encourage market competition.

We also need to protect coverage for reproductive healthcare and defend it against partisan attacks; address the high maternal and infant mortality rates, especially among Black and Native American women; and make it easier for states to expand Medicaid and create a public option for those that want it, as well as give people with employer-based coverage the choice to participate. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and no one should go bankrupt trying to afford coverage.

How would you rate the local and national response to the COVID-19 crisis? What should public officials have done differently, what have they done well, and what responses do you want to see in the future?
I do not agree with the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by our leaders in Washington, including President Trump and politicians like Senator Loeffler and Congressman Collins. The United States has more confirmed deaths from COVID-19 than any other country in the world. The Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic has only served to exacerbate our slow recovery, the most critical failure being his refusal to listen to the medical experts and follow the science. Republican officials have turned life-saving preventative measures, such as wearing masks and social distancing, into partisan issues and failed American families. Rather than protecting the health of the American people, he has taken efforts to repeal ACA protections and stalled relief aid at a time when people desperately need these protections as a matter of life and death.

As I have stated before, Congress’s most recent COVID-19 relief package did not meet the moment and left millions of Americans out. Georgia’s workers are facing higher rates of unemployment, potential loss of healthcare as a result of unemployment, and evictions during a severe loss of income. I also believe that forcing Georgians to choose between their health and safety, their right to vote, and the economy is a dangerous, false choice. The people are the economy, and if we want to have a healthy economy, the people must be safe and healthy.

Lastly, we should be following the advice of medical experts and scientists, who are best qualified to advise on how to proceed with a safe reopening.

What has the pandemic taught you about yourself?
I’ve committed my whole life to service and helping people, and this pandemic and period of unrest in our country has brought into sharp relief the need for moral leadership, clarity, and servant leaders. I believe that now more than ever.

Millions of people, like the ones I’ve counseled at my church and those like them all across the state, are wondering why no one is looking out for them and why those in power aren’t being held accountable for their misdeeds. That’s a sense people have especially in the times we’re facing now. A kid growing up in the projects today, or struggling families across Georgia, have more to overcome than I did, and unless we make real changes, it will only get worse.

I’m running because we believe there are more Georgians looking for a U.S. Senator whose priority is going to be their needs and concerns. I believe there are places all across our state—from underserved communities of color in South Georgia and disaffected rural North Georgia towns suffering for decades as access to healthcare, hospitals, and jobs has diminished, to cities like Atlanta, Columbus, and Savannah—that are looking for someone to fight for them.

Before a vaccine becomes widely available, should Americans be afforded another stimulus check? If so, for how much and who should be eligible to receive it?
First, I believe we must support our workers by passing more COVID-19 relief to help people get back on their feet. We should pass a more robust stimulus package that addresses the needs of workers and doesn’t incorporate loopholes that allowed big corporations to receive aid that small businesses needed.

Like all Americans, I look forward to the day when there is a safe vaccine available. And that we should trust the medical experts and scientists who are best qualified to make the decisions on how to proceed with a safe reopening.

Hundreds of thousands of Georgians could face eviction due to the economic hardships spurred by the pandemic, and many of those residents are relying on government-imposed eviction moratoriums to keep them at home for now. But once those protections expire, people will still owe rent. What recourse do they have? And what protections should landlords have for cases of delinquent renters? Should landlord and tenant laws be changed to adapt to the COVID-19 era?
Washington politicians have failed Georgia families and all Americans during the pandemic [by] failing to provide enough relief for workers facing unemployment as the coronavirus rages on. Unlike my opponents, I’ve called for extending benefits and other protections, like freezing evictions, until the pandemic is manageable.

I believe Congress needs to extend protections that keep people in their homes, and also gets more aid into the hands of people and their landlords until we have weathered this pandemic. In the midst of this pandemic, the economic livelihoods of millions have been threatened through no fault of their own. People want to get back on their feet, and our leaders must help them do so during this crisis.

Do you think America and Georgia still struggle with systemic racism? What safeguards, if any, should be enacted to ensure people of color are not disproportionately afflicted by law enforcement, the criminal justice system, income inequality, and other factors?
I believe that people of color in this country have been struggling under systemic racism in healthcare, education, criminal justice, and employment for too long, but this moment has presented an opportunity for change and meaningful reform as Americans of all backgrounds have come together.

I do not support defunding the police. At the federal level, I believe we should address inequality by reforming our criminal justice system and providing restorative justice to communities devastated by the enforcement of discriminatory laws. That means decriminalizing marjiuana, reducing the prison population by enacting true sentencing reform, eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement, demilitarizing our law enforcement departments, enacting uniform standards for use of force among law enforcement, and getting rid of for-profit prisons.

We should also look at ensuring more resources are being [put] into schools and that we’re providing opportunities for employment and training for workers of color, [as well as] addressing bias in our healthcare systems that affect Black and Native American women disproportionately.

As public protests have broken out in Georgia and around the nation—especially over conflicts between police and people of color—do you believe the federal government should play a role in quelling local tensions? If so, when do you believe it is appropriate to dispatch federal law enforcement or military personnel, and why?
At the federal level, I believe we should address inequality by reforming our criminal justice system, including demilitarizing our law enforcement departments. But we also need to invest in resources for other services like better police training and mental health treatment, and first responders for interventions that don’t rely on police interactions. The bipartisan Justice and Policing Act, passed [in the House] after George Floyd’s death, is a good start to address the systemic challenges and disparities we see in the policing of African American communities and non-communities of color that have led to the tensions we see today.

What are the most pressing issues facing the state/nation on the healthcare front? Should Medicaid be expanded? What are your thoughts on the push for Medicare for All? What steps should be taken to help Georgia’s maternal mortality crisis?
In the midst of a pandemic, when Americans are being forced to choose between their health and their constitutional right to vote, we are seeing that access to quality, affordable healthcare is a crisis. We should be improving the Affordable Care Act and defending protections for people with pre-existing conditions. I’m committed to working across the aisle to lower the cost of prescription drugs through price negotiations, including pushing for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to be empowered to negotiate lower drug pricing and advocate for more ability to work with our partner countries to bring in prescriptions to market at lower cost but the same level of quality and safety. We can push for Congress to roll back the power of special interests by imposing caps on the maximum price that can be charged for life-saving drugs and limiting the excessive use of patents to encourage market competition.

We also need to protect coverage for reproductive healthcare, defend it against partisan attacks, and address the high maternal and infant mortality rates—especially among Black and Native American women—by tackling bias in our healthcare system and medical professional training. [We need to] make it easier for states to expand Medicaid and create a public option for those that want it, as well as give people with employer-based coverage the choice to participate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed many weaknesses in Georgia’s healthcare system, particularly in rural Georgia. What can be done to fix the problems?
Washington politicians have failed Georgia families and all Americans during the pandemic, failing to provide enough relief, and many rural hospitals are being forced to shut down as the coronavirus rages on. Unlike my opponents, I’ve called for extending benefits and other protections until the pandemic is manageable. And I believe local politicians’ failure to expand Medicaid has stressed our healthcare systems, and that efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act would threaten the well-being and financial livelihood of countless Georgians, including the more than 1.8 million with pre-existing conditions.

By expanding Medicaid and improving upon the Affordable Care Act, we can ensure Georgians across the state are able to access the care they need and financially support our hospitals, who are often major employers in the areas they serve.

There’s been fierce debate, especially since the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, regarding term limits in the Supreme Court. Are lifelong term limits sustainable for a high-functioning justice system? Are reforms needed? Why or why not?
[No response provided.]

Where do you stand on the president’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? What should the confirmation process look like in this and/or future nominations, and what are your thoughts on expanding—or “packing”—the court?
I believe we should follow the standard Senator Mitch McConnell set in 2016, and that means allowing Americans to vote for the president of their choosing to fill the seat after the general election. While Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination is being rushed through the U.S. Senate less than 20 days before Election Day, this same body has slow-walked providing additional relief to millions of people in the midst of a pandemic. And Republican Senators, including in our home state of Georgia, have supported getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. The stakes of this vacancy concerning the future of pre-existing protections for the 1.8 million Georgians covered by the Affordable Care Act are too important to rush. Only after that confirmation of faith should the elected president appoint a nominee. There should be no confirmation before the inauguration.

Read all of our 2020 candidate questionnaires

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