ATLANTA — Former Housing Secretary and Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro hit the campaign trail for Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock this week as Democrats look to win two crucial runoff elections in the state next month.
“If Mitch McConnell is given the keys to the Senate again, nothing is going to get done for the people of Georgia,” Castro said to a small crowd of local organizers gathered Tuesday at East Lake Park in Atlanta.
“Nothing is going to get done in our time of need when people need to get their small businesses back up and going, when folks need to get back to work, [and] when we need to distribute that vaccine so that we can get past this pandemic.”
Castro, whose grandmother came to the U.S. from Mexico, is among the highest-profile Latino politicians in the country. According to one analysis, Latino voter participation increased 72 percent in Georgia in last month’s election, in which President-elect Joe Biden became the first Democrat to win the state since 1992.
Both political parties are heavily courting Georgia’s Latino population ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff. According to the Latin American Association, nearly 1 in 10 people in Georgia are Latino.
Warnock, for his part, said his campaign is “well positioned” for a win in January.
“We are well positioned in this state to make history, but more importantly to make a difference in the lives of working families,” Warnock said Tuesday. “[Once in the Senate], I’m there to represent the people of Georgia and their interests and their concerns.”
As it stands, Republicans have 50 seats in the Senate, while Democrats control 48. If Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the other Democrat in the race, both win, Democrats will take control of the chamber in January because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be able to cast any tie-breaking votes.
But if either candidate loses, Republicans will retain their Senate majority — and their ability to block progressive legislation from becoming law.
Early exit-polling data of the Georgia electorate from November shows that Biden won the Latino vote by more than 25 percent over President Trump. Still, the outgoing president has been credited with bringing more Latinos into the GOP — a trend that the two Republicans in the January runoffs, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are eager to build on.
Although the GOP has made inroads with Hispanic communities in recent years, millennial Latinos tend to lean heavily Democratic. Castro made it a point to say how “proud” he was of younger Latinos who organized voters for Biden, but he said their work is not yet done.
“Folks will always tell you that you’re the future, but you’re not just the future,” Castro said. “You’re the present.”
“Young people have the biggest stake in this election because those decisions that are made in Washington, D.C., on climate change, on equality, on jobs and opportunity, on so many things, you’re going to have to live with the consequences of those for the longest amount of time,” he added.
Warnock talked at length about his plans for representing Georgians in the Senate and took a swipe at Loeffler, his Republican opponent.
“I’m very clear about who I’m supposed to represent when I go to the Senate,” Warnock said. “[It’s] the people of Georgia. Kelly Loeffler said that she’s 100 percent with Trump. And when I pointed that out, although obviously I don’t stand with him, I really wasn’t making a political point as much as I’m speaking about the principle of what it means to represent people.”
If elected, Warnock would become Georgia’s first Black senator, and he told Yahoo News that more diversity in Congress leads to better policy outcomes for everyone.
“There’s no question that representation matters,” he told Yahoo News. “When we bring diversity to the table, I think we create better public policy, but none of that happens unless we show up. And so I intend to represent all the people of Georgia.”
Below are key dates for Georgians to remember ahead of the state’s Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5, 2021:
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images, Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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