CUMMING, Ga.—With three days to go before the runoff election to decide control of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)—who has run a relentlessly negative campaign against her Democratic challenger, pastor Raphael Warnock—is throwing out the harshest and most personal attacks seen so far in this already-heated race.
At a campaign stop Saturday morning in Cumming, a town in the conservative northern exurbs of Atlanta, Loeffler accused Warnock of being “involved in child abuse, domestic abuse—he’s hiding out, he won’t answer those questions.”
That line drew cheers from the crowd—and from one man, the familiar Trump-era refrain reserved for the most hated political figures: “Lock him up!”
The senator then said that “Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer” contributed to Warnock’s campaign. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” she added. Loeffler was likely referring to David Boies, the prominent attorney who has previously represented Weinstein. Boies has donated to a PAC supporting Georgia Democrats but not to Warnock’s campaign specifically, according to federal records.
In making the explosive charges, Loeffler was referring to a pair of events that have defined the GOP’s effort to attack Warnock’s character.
One is a March incident in which the police were called after a dispute between Warnock and his wife as they were in the process of divorcing. Warnock’s ex-wife alleged that he ran over her foot with his car; recently-released police body camera footage captures her telling officers that Warnock was a “great actor.” That line has been featured in an attack ad blitz, funded by Loeffler’s GOP allies, inundating Georgia airwaves before the election.
Warnock has denied any wrongdoing, and no charges were filed after the incident. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on Dec. 30 that, according to hours of body camera footage, Atlanta police officers expressed doubt that Warnock injured his wife. Ouleye Warnock told the AJC that she felt the incident had no place in the Senate election.
The second is a 2002 incident at a Maryland summer camp run by Warnock’s then-church in Baltimore, in which he and a fellow church leader were arrested after interrupting a police probe of allegations of abuse at the camp. Warnock said at the time he was blocking police from talking to campers without the children’s lawyers present; Maryland police later credited him for cooperating with the investigation and called the arrest a “miscommunication.” Last week, the story resurfaced when a former camper alleged that counselors punished him by forcing him to sleep outside and throwing urine on him.
Last week, after Loeffler said that Warnock “needs to answer” for what happened, Warnock’s campaign told the AJC, “It doesn’t matter how many lies Senator Loeffler tells, the facts are the same: Reverend Warnock was helpful to law enforcement with their investigation and they thanked him.”
In response to Loeffler’s claims, a spokesperson for Warnock said that the senator “has spent her whole campaign lying about Reverend Warnock and trying to divide Georgians.”
“Georgians see through Kelly Loeffler’s dishonest campaign, and they know that during her year serving in the Senate she’s spent far more time looking out for herself than looking out for them,” said the spokesperson.
For most of the two-month runoff campaign, the GOP has focused on painting Warnock as a dangerous, far-left radical by airing snippets of his past sermons. Many Democrats, including the candidates themselves, have called those ads racist in how they play to certain tropes.
But many Georgia Republican voters can’t think about the upcoming election without dwelling on the Nov. 3 election. President Trump has fixated on Georgia, claiming without any evidence that the state’s election was fraudulent and hopelessly corrupt. That fantasy has taken root in the GOP base, and top leaders—including Trump—have urged Georgia voters to vote in the Jan. 5 election even if they believe that the entire system is rotten.
Joining Loeffler on Saturday was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who appeared at the rally shortly before his Senate office announced he would be leading a group of GOP senators in objecting to Biden’s victory when the Senate meets to certify the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. In a joint statement, the senators claimed that the 2020 election suffered from “unprecedented” voter fraud, but they failed to produce any specific evidence of it, just as Trump’s legal team has failed to do in their series of botched attempts to overturn the election in court.
Speaking to the crowd on the flatbed of a pickup truck, Cruz aired baseless allegations that Democrats stole the 2020 election—and accused them of planning to do the same for the Georgia runoff.
“Are they going to try to steal it? Yes,” said Cruz. “But I’ll tell you what we’re going to do—we’re gonna win by a big enough margin that ain’t nobody’s stealing the state of Georgia.”