Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock dodged questions about packing the Supreme Court and declined to condemn Marxism in a debate Sunday night against Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler.
The two candidates sparred over economics and coronavirus policy during the hour-long debate, with Warnock accusing his opponent of using her office for personal gain and Loeffler repeatedly describing her Democratic challenger as a "radical liberal."
Progressive activists have advocated for adding seats to the Supreme Court to tilt the political balance to the left, a proposal opposed by most Americans. Warnock has so far declined to state his views on the matter during the race and took another pass in Sunday’s debate.
"People [in Georgia] aren't asking me about the courts and whether we should expand the courts," said Warnock. "I know that's an interesting question for people inside the Beltway to discuss. But [voters are] wondering when in the world are they going to get some COVID relief?"
Pressed for an answer, Warnock demurred, saying "I'm really not focused on it."
Warnock and Loeffler faced off in what is likely the final debate before their runoff election on Jan. 5. The high-stakes race in Georgia is one of two in the state that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next year. The flood of cash into the campaigns is expected to break records—with advertising spending alone exceeding $300 million.
During a segment of the debate in which the candidates were allowed to ask each other questions, Warnock was evasive when asked if he would renounce socialism and Marxism.
"In your writings and your teachings you’ve repeatedly praised Marxism and the redistribution of income," said Loeffler. "Can you here now for all Georgians renounce socialism and Marxism?"
Warnock responded that he believes "in our free enterprise system," but stopped short of renouncing the ideologies.
"Listen, I believe in our free enterprise system. My dad was a small business owner," he said. "During the great recession, you know what I was doing? I was leading my church to build a community center where among other things we had a financial literacy center."
Warnock took aim at Loeffler’s wealth—she is the richest member of the Senate—and accused her of using her office for personal profit.
"When you received the private briefing regarding the coronavirus pandemic, you dropped millions of dollars of stock in order to protect your own investments," said Warnock.
Loeffler shot back that she had been "completely exonerated" on the issue and called his comments "lies perpetrated by the left-wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda."
Loeffler repeatedly described her opponent as "radical liberal Raphael Warnock," noting that he had praised an anti-American sermon by Rev. Jeremiah Wright as a "very fine homily," claimed in a speech that "nobody can serve God and the military" in America, and argued that "America needs to repent for its worship of whiteness."
She also blasted Warnock for his association with the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group that is under investigation by the Georgia secretary of state for sending registration applications to out-of-state residents. Warnock served as CEO of the group until earlier this year.