Georgia Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock, who joined the U.S. Senate in the 2021 election and is fighting to keep his spot, recently turned to his friends in New York City and specifically Brooklyn for fundraising support.
The Sept. 17 event exceeded its donation expectations, sources say, and New York State Senator-turned Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin was key to that support.
“When I get a call to support Senator Warnock and his reelection, I will be there as much as I can,” Benjamin told PoliticsNY.
Benjamin said Warnock remarked that Georgia “saved” New York when it needed COVID-19 aid from President Donald Trump, who publicly sparred with then-Governor Cuomo. “It wasn’t until we won the two seats in Georgia, was New York State able to get COVID relief, $12.5 million,” Benjamin said.
Warnock unseated a team-Trump Republican, Kelly Loeffler, this year to become Georgia’s first Black senator. However, he ran in a special election to fill the remainder of retired Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term, which runs out in 2022, meaning that Warnock will have to run for re-election again next year for the term starting in 2023.
The fundraiser offered tickets at several levels, and many were likely purchased to get a seat near the new lieutenant governor. One invitee donated at the highest level, $5,800, even though they were unable to attend.
According to Federal Election Commission data, the Warnock campaign ending cash on hand at the end of June was over $10 million. On Sept. 17, he filed for his 2022 candidacy for Senate.
Warnock’s campaign office has not yet responded to requests for the number he has raised since his recent filing, but Brooklyn Law School Professor Cynthia Godsoe – and Benjamin’s campaign finance chair Melissa Prober – two of the fundraiser hosts – estimated the senator raised a hefty $30,000 to $40,000 for his night in Brooklyn.
Prober told PoliticsNY that the city’s top fundraisers are already discussing more events for Warnock.
“Senator Warnock is an important voice in the Senate, and I expect New York City Democrats to raise a significant amount of money to help combat voter suppression efforts in Georgia and its effect on the entire country,” Prober said.
Other event hosts included Clifford Harris of Charter Communications, Shari Hyman, director of government affairs and external relations for Turner Construction and Sabrina Lucia Rezzy, spokesperson for Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte.
Sources who attended say U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also attended, as well as Bichotte, who is also chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, rounding out the Democratic support.
“The amount we raised exceeded our expectations, and NYC’s top fundraisers are already discussing future events for Senator Warnock,” Prober said.
Godsoe remarked that Democratic support is especially important, as there is a larger attack on democracy going on. “[Warnock] is at the front of that, being attacked. The racial elements of it can’t be overlooked,” she said.
After the senator’s win in January, Benjamin congratulated him in a statement via Twitter.
“[Warnock] is a son of GA through & through, but I’m proud that he spent some of his formative years in the district I represent: ministering at Harlem’s @AbyssinianBC,” Benjamin wrote while he was still a state senator.
Warnock also studied at Union Theological Seminary located in Manhattan and affiliated with Columbia University.
Warnock is currently the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the famed church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was co-pastor from 1960 until his assassination in 1968,