Stacey Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock are far from strangers. But, just two months out from the November midterms they hadn’t yet campaigned together. Both appeared at the Democratic convention in Columbus over the weekend, but their speeches were several hours apart.

That changed on a Wednesday evening in the heart of Cobb County, where the pair joined forces for their first rally to promote a unified party. 

In 2020, Georgia voters shocked the country by backing a Democrat for president and sending two more to represent them in the U.S. Senate – Warnock and his counterpart U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff. 

The party is itching to prove that Georgia is far from a Republican stronghold. Abrams is in the thick of a rematch against Republican incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp while Warnock is up against Trump-backed Republican football star Herschel Walker.

“We had a warmup in 2018, we proved ourselves in 2020, and because we’re Southern, we sent them two U.S. senators in 2021,” Abrams said. “But folks think Georgia has done what it’s going to do, that it was a fluke…The job’s not done until the election is won.”

The two candidates at the top of the statewide Democratic ticket used their time in Cobb to slam their Republican opponents – particularly on the issue of health care after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier Wednesday that a large Atlanta hospital may be on the brink of closure.

“This isn’t down in Randolph County or up in Commerce, Georgia,” Abrams told the crowd. “This isn’t happening in rural Georgia or suburban Georgia, this is happening in Atlanta – in the heart of Atlanta.”

Like her first bid for governor, Abrams built her 2022 campaign around calls for Medicaid expansion as hospitals across Georgia have struggled to keep their doors open under the weight of the pandemic.

Kemp has offered his own waiver plans that would cover a portion of uninsured Georgians, but far from the number that would be covered if the state chose to expand the program fully under the Affordable Care Act.

Abrams blamed the potential closure of Wellstar Health System’s Atlanta Medical Center on Kemp’s inaction.

It is because we have a governor who refuses to expand Medicaid,” she said. “But we’ve got a senator in Raphael Warnock who has been fighting to expand Medicaid and serves 600,000 Georgians right here in our state.”

Stacey Abrams
Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams stumps for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock at a campaign event in Cobb County on Aug. 31.(Credit: Riley Bunch/GPB News)

Warnock has been pushing at the federal level for a remedy but his efforts have fallen short. “Politicians are holding them hostage,” Warnock said of uninsured Georgians.

And you know, I’m serious about it,” he said. “Because long before I wrote the Medicaid bill in Congress, I went down to the Georgia State Capitol back in 2014 and I got arrested fighting for Medicaid expansion. I thought it was a small price to pay because I believe that health care is a human right.”

It’s not the only issue Democrats have struggled to pass in Congress: attempts to codify voting rights protections have also hit obstacles.

When Georgia voters sent Warnock and Ossoff to the Senate, it clinched the majority for Democrats – an even 50-50 split with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote. It gave Democrats control of both chambers of Congress and the ability to pass ambitious legislation around issues like the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.

My election positioned us so that we could pass the American Rescue Plan. It passed the Inflation Reduction Act,” Warnock said. 

But in such a hyper-partisan political atmosphere, Warnock also boasted of his ability to work across the aisle with GOP colleagues. He pointed to an amendment he supported with Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas, aimed at improving a Texas interstate that would also connect to Georgia military bases.

If you build an interstate and you’re riding along on the interstate, there’s no tollbooth where people ask you, ‘Are you a Democrat or a Republican?’” Warnock said. “There’s a road that runs through Texas, that also runs through Georgia, and there’s a road that runs through our humanity that’s bigger than politics, that’s bigger than partisan bickering.”

The Abrams-Warnock event comes as polling continues to show both candidates in locked tight races which could mean Georgia voters may have to brace themselves for another close outcome in November.

This story comes to Reporter Newspapers / Atlanta Intown through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.

Riley Bunch is a reporter on the local government team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covering Atlanta City Hall.