“I’m not going to get ahead of the president,” Warnock said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I think he’s going to announce he’s running … I’m going to support him.”
Warnock, 53, dodged questions about his political ambitions but said he was increasingly interested in his status as the leading figure in Georgia’s Democratic Party. He said he was lobbying Biden and Democrats across the country to choose Atlanta as the venue for the party’s 2024 national convention. He also backed a plan by the Democratic National Committee, backed by Biden, to make Georgia an early nominating state in the presidential primary.
In the past three years, Warnock has faced voters five times in an unusual mix of primaries, special elections, traditional elections and runoffs. Now he can settle for a six-year term.
As he did during his previous campaign, Warnock emphasized the substance of his election job — pushing Georgia Republicans to expand Medicaid, limit the cost of insulin for people with diabetes on Medicare, and fight with Congress. Hill Republicans are cooperating to keep Georgia open for military action. And that doesn’t include his service as senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“I don’t want to give them too much credit, but it’s clear they’ve run a fantastic campaign,” said Chip Lake, a senior adviser to Walker’s campaign.
Warnock regretted some of the most violent attacks against him, especially related to his position at Ebenezer, where Martin Luther King Jr. preached. Republicans blasted him for receiving more than $7,000 a month in housing subsidies from the church. That’s much higher than before his Senate tenure, and it’s a way for Warnock to continue drawing money from his chaplaincy role while avoiding exceeding the Senate’s outside salary cap for members.
“We followed all requests and disclosed everything,” he said.
Lake said it would be a mistake to overlook Warnock’s abilities just because the former soccer star and first-time candidate has struggled with a difficult past.
Warnock’s margin of victory in the runoff — just under 3 points — is lower than Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s nearly 8-point victory over Democrat Stacey Abram in November s. But at the end of the day, Lake said, Warnock did the same thing Kemp did: “He figured out how to win his base and the middle.”
The senator insisted he would always “work with anyone,” even the most conservative Trump-aligned Republicans. He declined to provide details about his relationship with Republican senators, saying he did not want to hurt them politically.
“When we’re trying to get things done together, sometimes it’s just not that sexy and fun for people,” he said.
Warnock cited his work with Republican Rep. Buddy Carter and his work with congressional delegations on infrastructure, agriculture and state defense installations. Warnock said there is a bipartisan group of senators willing to build on his measure to limit the cost of insulin to $35 a month for Medicare recipients.
“We should also be able to get this done for people who buy private insurance,” Warnock said, though he would not say how Republican senators might help the job in a chamber that needs 60 votes to pass a majority of legislation .
However, while talking about bipartisanship, Warnock was sharply critical of Kemp and Georgia Republicans for their rejection of expanding Medicaid under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The decision means that hundreds of thousands of Georgians are deemed not poor enough to qualify for existing Medicaid, but not rich enough to use the health law’s marketplace.
“It’s clear that Georgia should expand Medicaid. I mean, it’s really obvious. The only thing standing in the way of that is politics,” Warnock said, noting that many Republican states are expanding Medicaid of the 38 states.
Warnock said he had spoken to Kemp since their respective wins but would not elaborate on their conversations.
Warnock said he did “pinch himself” because of his role and status as Georgia’s first black senator. He pointed to his office in a grand Washington mansion named for the late Georgia Senator Richard Russell, who was in office when Warnock was born in 1969.
“He did a lot for Georgia. He did. But he was also a segregationist,” Warnock said. “I’m so inspired when I think about the arc of American history and what’s possible. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve gotten a lot done.”