Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 6 – In a runoff election dominated by Stacey Abrams, Donald Trump, and unprecedented spending by the campaigns and candidates, Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock has made history, defeating incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler to become Georgia’s first-ever Black Senator.
Senator-Elect Warnock responded to a detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues put out by the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. RespectAbility is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ending stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. Loeffler, despite multiple requests, did not respond to the questionnaire.
RespectAbility was not alone in reaching out to the candidates in the runoff elections on behalf of the disability community. The Georgia Disability Vote Partnership coordinated the efforts of disability advocacy organizations to get out the disability vote. The partnership hosted a live streamed voting forum featuring all four of Georgia’s Senate runoff candidates. Watch the video of Warnock’s remarks above.
Most of the videos released by Warnock’s campaign had captions or ASL interpretation, so they were able to reach the 328,000 deaf/hard of hearing people in Georgia. A short video of Warnock asking people to vote in ASL has over 125,000 views on Twitter as of this writing. Notably, Loeffler’s videos were far less accessible to these voters. In such a tight race, Warnock’s outreach to voters with disabilities could very well have swung the election.
According to the 2019 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, the total number of Georgians with disabilities is 1,246,077. 2018 employment data shows that there are 658,811 working-age people with disabilities in Georgia. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 238,875 (or 36.3 percent) of those Georgians have a job.
“Clearly, connecting with voters with disabilities is a winning strategy,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “We congratulate Senator-Elect Warnock and look forward to working with him and his team on a wide range of issues so that together we can build an inclusive economy where people with disabilities can have the dignity and income of work, just like anyone else.”
One-in-five Americans have a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People with disabilities are America’s largest minority group and the only one that, due to an accident or illness, anyone can join at any time. Indeed, America has 61 million people with disabilities. Further, Rutgers University found that there were more than 38 million eligible voters with disabilities in the 2020 election. Polling conducted early in the election season showed that the disability community is a large and electorally contested voting bloc. As such, the victory of candidates such as Warnock who made a special effort to connect with voters in the disability community proves that the disability community can be a key pool of voters in tight electoral contests.
RespectAbility reached out to candidates for president, governor and U.S. Senate, requesting they complete the 2020 Disability Voter Questionnaire on key topics ranging from employment, education, criminal justice, healthcare and more. On the presidential level, President-Elect Joe Biden filled out the full questionnaire. Despite numerous requests by phone and email, President Donald Trump did not. However, candidates for Senate and Governor from both political parties who answered the questionnaire did win their races.
In a Senate pickup for the Democratic party, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper won a hotly contested race for the Colorado Senate seat, beating Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner. Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines will continue to represent Montana in the U.S. Senate, beating Democratic challenger Gov. Steve Bullock. In Maine, incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins won a hotly contested race to continue serving in the U.S. Senate, beating Democratic challenger Sara Gideon. And in North Carolina, incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis defeated Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham and will serve another term in the U.S. Senate.
Additionally, three incumbent Governors who showed their support of people with disabilities by completing the questionnaire have won re-election. Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper won a second term as Governor of North Carolina, beating Republican challenger Dan Forest. Democratic incumbent John Carney won a second term as Delaware’s Governor, beating Republican challenger Julianne Murray. And Republican incumbent Eric Holcomb was re-elected as Governor of Indiana, beating Democratic challenger Dr. Woodrow Myers.
RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of their communities. RespectAbility does not rate or endorse candidates. View more coverage of 2020 candidates.