Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock appealed to UGA students and other young voters at a rally in Athens Friday, Dec. 11 by promising to protect health care and address student loans.
Student-loan debt is now larger than both credit-card and auto-loan debt, and is dragging down the economy by preventing college graduates starting businesses, Warnock said during a brief speech to about 200 people in the 40 Watt Club parking lot.
“Our young people should not have to get a mortgage before they even get a mortgage,” he said.
Warnock, the 11th of 12 children, said he was able to become the first person from his family to attend college—he received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College—not only because of the work ethic instilled by his parents, but federal assistance like the Pell Grant, low-interest loans and work-study programs.
Warnock also pledged to continue covering pre-existing conditions and ensure people can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26—both provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have long sought to repeal or strike down.
Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link, who was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 48, introduced Warnock.
“If I didn’t have decent health care, I’m not sure I’d be here talking to you today,” she said.
Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, faces Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the Jan. 5 runoff. Loeffler was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year. They were the top two candidates among 21 on Nov. 3.
Before the rally, Warnock paid a visit to City Hall, then popped into local businesses on College Square and the Hot Corner.
Georgia’s other Democratic Senate candidate, Jon Ossoff, also appeared in Athens this week with Julian Castro, secretary of housing and urban development under President Obama. They toured an East Athens affordable housing development with state Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens), the executive director of Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, on Dec. 7 and held a rally outside The Grit. Ossoff faces Sen. David Perdue on Jan. 5.
Early voting starts Monday. The outcome will determine control of the Senate.
“Right now Georgia is on everybody’s mind,” Warnock said.
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