Wrightsville residents (left to right) Francine Rouse, Mary C. Brown and Orlea Carey pose with a handmade sign outside the now closed Dock Kemp School. All have admitted that they are supporting Senator Raphael Warnock this election. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

WRIGHTSVILLE, Ga. — The auditorium at the now closed Dock Kemp School filled up fast. It was cold outside Monday night and more than 300 Johnson County residents made their way to folding chairs set up around a stage in order to get a good look at the man they are supporting for the U.S. Senate.

Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock (center) made his first campaign appearance in Wrightsville Monday night. “After we win, I’ll be back,” he said. Warnock lost Johnson County, of which Wrightsville is the county seat, by a huge margin to native son and opponent Herschel Walker during the midterm election. (Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

Wrightsville, the hometown of senatorial candidate Herschel Walker, was the latest stop on Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock’s (D-GA) campaign. During his time on stage he made sure to speak about the differences between himself and Walker. “This race is about competence and character. You actually have to know stuff to do this job,” Warnock said. “The job of a senator is to write laws and push forward policy. He is neither ready or fit.”

A possible shifting tide

Wrightsville has a population of 9,160 residents, according to the United States Census and during the most recent midterm election only a small percentage (1,806) voted early, according to data provided by the Secretary of State’s Office. Walker won Johnson County with over 73% (2,484 votes to Warnock’s 869) during the midterm election. 

With the recent decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thomas Cox to allow early voting to begin on Saturday, November 26, and the decision left on the county, Warnock came to the county seat of Johnson County to see if he could gain more support than he did the first time around. In some ways it seems like he has.

“Being someone that grew up here in the same era as Herschel Walker, this is an enormous accomplishment,” Elgin Dixon, a Wrightsville native and retired educator, said of the crowd. “We are standing behind the quality of the candidate, that’s why we are standing with Senator Warnock.”

“He’s not ready”

Walker’s former high school teacher and assistant football coach Curtis Dixon received a large ovation when he took the stage. He began his speech by telling the crowd what Walker did to get ready to play football in high school, and then later college and the National Football League. Then said, “Now ask me what has he done to be a senator and I’ll tell you what he’s done, not a blessed thing. He’s not ready.”

A Warnock supporter gets the most out of his campaign stickers Monday night in Wrightsville. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Johnson County is 63% white, according to U.S. Census data. The room was filled with nearly 100% Black people, the only exception being members of the media and Warnock campaign aides.

State Rep. Mack Jackson (District 128), also a fan favorite, added, “Ladies and gentlemen we’ve got to get back out and vote.”

Warnock told the crowd that after he wins this election he would be back to Wrightsville. After the event he told The Atlanta Voice, “I’ve been wanting to come here for quite some time and I’m glad I was able to make it. I made a promise to these folks and I mean it, I will be back after I win.” 

Warnock added, “I think Washington (D.C.) could use some Wrightsville values. Small places like this teach basic values, like your word is your bond. If you say something you ought to mean it and you ought to tell the truth. I think Herschel Walker could benefit from spending some time in Wrightsville, maybe recapture some Wrightsville values.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...