Democrats are increasing the pressure on Matt Lieberman to drop out of a special Senate election in Georgia, hoping to clear the field for the Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Georgia Democratic nominee for governor and arguably the highest-profile active Democrat in the state, called on Lieberman to drop out on Thursday morning. Democrats fear Lieberman’s presence in the race could make it possible for Republicans to claim the top two slots in November’s all-party primary and lock Democrats out of a January runoff election.
Abrams cited HuffPost’s reporting on racist tropes included in Lieberman’s self-published novel “Lucius” and said she was fearful that his continued presence in the race would hurt Democratic efforts to take control of the U.S. Senate.
“I’ve been deeply disturbed by the information that has come about not only his book, but also some of his comments,” Abrams said during a virtual press conference. “I think that Matt may be a good person, but he is not the right candidate. I think the best result for all is for Matt to step back and realize that Rev. Warnock is the right candidate for the state of Georgia.”
“I would encourage Matt to search his conscience,” Abrams added. “We need Matt Lieberman to understand that he is not called to this moment.”
Lieberman rejected the calls from Abrams and others, and insisted he is staying in the race. In a series of Twitter missives on Thursday night, he accused Abrams of “candidate suppression.” He also accused Warnock of “using race to divide Georgia” for criticizing his novel and said his special election rivals Warnock, GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Republican Rep. Doug Collins were “already owned by power brokers in Atlanta & DC.
The winner of the Nov. 3 special election will fill the remaining two years of the term of retired GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson. Loeffler, by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, is battling for conservative votes with Collins. Warnock is the leading Democrat, with Lieberman ― an attorney and educator who is the son of Joe Lieberman, the former longtime senator from Connecticut ― not far behind in public polling. A third Democrat, former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver, typically polls in the single digits.
Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Abrams and most other Georgia Democrats. He’s been rising in public polling since he started airing television ads, with multiple polls this week showing Warnock in second place in the crowded field.
Beyond eliminating the possibility of an all-GOP runoff, a decision from Lieberman and Tarver to quit the race could also help Democrats block President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination. If Warnock is able to earn 50% of the vote on Election Day, he could be seated in short order and provide an additional vote against the nominee. At the moment, however, that scenario appears highly unlikely.
Abrams is not alone in calling on Lieberman to leave the contest. Georgia state Sen. Jen Jordan, who won a previously GOP-held seat in the Atlanta suburbs in a Democrat vs. Democrat runoff because Republican candidates split the vote, cited her own experiences in calling for Lieberman’s exit.
Josh McLaurin, a state representative who dropped out of a special congressional election in 2017 to help consolidate Democratic support behind Jon Ossoff, similarly suggested the other Democrats in the race should clear the field.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported a group of about 300 Jewish community leaders planned to publish an ad in the Atlanta Jewish Times calling on Lieberman to drop out. Lieberman is the former principal of the Atlanta Jewish Academy.
Meanwhile, Warnock continued to build momentum for his bid, earning the endorsement of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The endorsement is noteworthy because Tarver served under Holder when he was U.S. attorney.
“Whether it’s expanding economic opportunity to everyone, protecting the right to vote or bringing together a coalition of people willing to reform our broken criminal justice system, Rev. Warnock will be a senator who works on behalf of every Georgian,” Holder said.
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