Walker accepts debate with Warnock before live audience in Savannah

Herschel Walker

ATLANTA – Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker has agreed to debate incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock Oct. 14 in Savannah.

For weeks, Warnock has been criticizing Walker for not agreeing to a specific schedule of debates. Walker has responded by saying said he would be ready to debate his opponent but only under “fair and equitable” terms.

The one-hour Savannah debate will take place before a live audience of about 500.

“I’m not going to obey the demands of the elite press and the liberal establishment to stand in an empty room for a debate that is supposed to be about the people,” Walker said in a video statement released Tuesday night.

“I accepted a debate that’s about the voters. I’m leaving the media elite behind and taking my message right to the people.”

Warnock campaign manager Quentin Fulks said the senator would like to see more than one debate.

“Two months ago, Reverend Warnock accepted invitations to three well-established Georgia debates in Atlanta, Savannah, and Macon to be broadcast statewide, after Herschel Walker said he would debate Reverend Warnock anywhere, anytime,” Fulks said.

“Nothing has changed. Reverend Warnock remains committed to debating Herschel Walker and giving Georgians three opportunities to see the clear choice about who is ready to represent Georgia.” 

If only the Oct. 14 debate takes place, it would be in a Republican-friendly area of the state and away from metro Atlanta, which Warnock dominated on the way to his election victory in January of last year. However, Savannah also is Warnock’s hometown.

The Savannah debate will be televised by Fox 5 Atlanta, the Nexstar Media Group markets serving Georgia in Augusta, Savannah, Columbus, Spartanburg, S.C., and Dothan, Ala. It also will air on the Sinclair-owned stations in Macon and Albany. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Walker wins national law-enforcement group’s endorsement

Herschel Walker

ALPHARETTA – Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker landed an endorsement from a national law-enforcement organization Friday, even as Democrats continued to hammer away at false claims that he worked in law enforcement.

The National Border Patrol Council endorsed Walker, citing his support for tougher enforcement at the nation’s southern border to choke off illegal drug smuggling.

“We have a very, very serious crisis on our southwestern border,” council President Brandon Judd said during a news conference outside Alpharetta City Hall. “The drug epidemic … is killing too many of our children.”

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who represented a district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs for 20 years, characterized Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock as soft on crime.

“Senator Warnock favors policies that put criminals back on the streets,” Gingrich said.

Former Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren, a friend of Walker’s for almost 30 years, said Walker served the Cobb sheriff’s department as an honorary deputy and often spent time at the jail talking to prisoners.

“He made a lot of difference with a lot of inmates at that facility,” Warren said. “Herschel Walker is probably one of the best ambassadors for law enforcement in this country. … We need him in the Senate.”

“We’ve got to get behind the men and women in blue, let them know we have got their backs and are going to fund them,” Walker said when his turn came at the podium.

Walker said Warren’s testimony should answer Democrats’ criticism that he has been making false claims about his law enforcement experience.

But the Democratic Party of Georgia cited instances of Walker’s false claims that go well beyond his work in Cobb County, including that he was an FBI agent and spent time at the agency’s training school in Quantico, Va.

Warnock’s campaign shot back at Republican criticism of his law enforcement record, pointing to his support for $3.9 billion in grants for state and local law enforcement this year, including $250 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring program.

The senator also backs the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act, which would invest in training, equipment, mental health support, and officer recruitment and retention to support small law enforcement agencies.

Walker continued Friday to express his willingness to debate Warnock. However, the two have yet to agree on a time and place.

“I’m ready to debate,” Walker said. “[But] it has to be a fair and equitable debate.”

The former University of Georgia football great easily captured the Republican nomination to challenge Warnock, winning the Republican primary in May over five other candidates.

Warnock, who won the Senate seat in January of last year in a runoff over incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, is seeking a full six-year term in November.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Warnock leading Walker in fundraising

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock

ATLANTA – U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., is continuing to raise more money toward his reelection bid than Republican challenger Herschel Walker.

Warnock brought in more than $17.2 million during the second quarter, the senator’s campaign reported Wednesday.

The Walker campaign received nearly $6.2 million in contributions during April, May, and June.

Warnock reported $22.2 million in cash on hand as of June 30, to nearly $7 million for Walker.

The Warnock campaign received contributions from more than 258,000 individual donors during the second quarter. The average donation was $37.

“This haul and the tens of thousands of grassroots donors lining up to support the campaign in record numbers are just the latest sign that Georgians see Reverend Warnock working on their behalf in the U.S. Senate, and they are ready to help propel our campaign to victory,” said Quentin Fulks, Warnock’s campaign manager.

Walker brought in contributions from nearly 70,000 donors from all 50 states in April, May, and June.

“Team Herschel and I are so grateful for the incredible outpouring of support we’ve received from people who truly believe in our campaign and what we will deliver for Georgia,” Walker said.

Walker, a star running back on the University of Georgia’s 1980 national championship football team, won the Republican nomination to challenge Warnock in May, easily defeating five GOP primary opponents.

Warnock defeated incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler to win the Senate seat in a special election runoff in January of last year. He captured the Democratic nomination for a full six-year term in May.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

U.S. Senate challenger Walker launches first general election ad

Herschel Walker

ATLANTA – Republican Herschel Walker launched the first TV ad of the general election campaign for U.S. Senate Wednesday, a positive portrayal that depicts the University of Georgia football great as a uniter.

In the 30-second ad, Walker takes positions in support of the police, the Constitution, the right to exercise religious beliefs, and in favor of a strong military.

“I believe in peace through strength,” Walker says early in the ad. “If we have no strength, we’re going to have no peace.”

There’s no mention in the ad of incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, whose own ads have characterized Walker as being unready to represent Georgia in the Senate.

In the most recent examples, Warnock and his allies have taken aim at the Republican for pitching a product Walker said would kill COVID-19 and launching an organization purported to help veterans that allegedly preyed upon them.

While Walker’s new ad doesn’t talk about Warnock, a news release issued in conjunction with the ad accuses the Democrat of making personal attacks on Walker instead of talking about inflation and rising fuel prices.

“Simply put, if this election is about the issues, Raphael Warnock will lose – and he knows it,” Scott Paradise, Walker’s campaign manager, said Wednesday.

Walker’s new ad will run statewide on broadcast, cable, and digital outlets.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Walker on track to win Senate Republican nod despite boycotts of media, debates

ATLANTA – U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker is not talking to reporters. He’s not appearing on the debate stage to talk issues with his opponents on the May 24 Republican primary ballot.

But the University of Georgia football icon who led the Dawgs to the 1980 national championship is so far ahead in the polls he can afford to ignore the primary and focus his attention on Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock.

That lack of engagement in the primary race has allowed Walker’s GOP opponents to declare open season on him.

“We’ve all hit the [campaign] trail and taken the tough questions,” Latham Saddler, an Atlanta banking executive and former Navy SEAL officer said last Tuesday night during a televised debate where an empty podium represented Walker’s no-show.

“This is the easy part. If Herschel Walker can’t get up here, he certainly can’t beat Raphael Warnock in November.”

Besides Saddler and Walker, the Republican candidates vying for the right to challenge Warnock this fall include Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black of Commerce, former state Rep. Josh Clark of Flowery Branch, small business owner and Air Force veteran Kelvin King of Atlanta and retired Brig. Gen. Jonathan McColumn of Warner Robins.

As is typical in any primary contest, the candidates agree on a host of issues from abortion to crime to federal spending.

While a looming U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected to overturn abortion on demand likely will have a huge impact on the general election this fall, the Republicans running for the Senate are all on the same page.

“I am pro-life,” said Black. “Life begins at conception, period.”

Clark, who served two terms in the state House in the first half of the last decade, has pledged to introduce a “personhood amendment” to the U.S. Constitution containing a total ban on abortion with no exception for incest or rape.

“Why should the child be murdered for the sins of the father?” he declared.

King, who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and rose to the rank of captain before leaving the military and starting a construction business, blamed “divisive rhetoric” from Democrats and Black Lives Matter protesters for the civil unrest and rise in crime during the pandemic.

King, who is African American, said the identity politics Democrats practice ignore Black Americans’ ability to overcome social disparities.

“Crime is going to increase when you don’t back law enforcement,” he said. “We need to make sure law enforcement is protected and supported.”

McColumn said the key to reining in federal spending is to get a grasp on runaway entitlement spending on programs including Medicare and Social Security.

“We have to make a determination how to fund them and at what level,” he said.

“We don’t have the resources we had in the past,” Saddler added. “We have to get spending under control.”

McColumn and Saddler bring the most foreign policy and national security experience to the table among the candidates.

In 35 years in the Army, McColumn said he commanded 6,000 troops and oversaw $6 billion in annual contracts. Saddler served in the Trump administration as director of intelligence programs for the National Security Council.

McColumn faulted the Biden administration for waiting too long to get the U.S. involved in the war in Ukraine.

At the same time, Saddler cautioned against the U.S. allowing itself to get dragged into the conflict to the point that American lives are put at risk.

“I don’t want to see boots on the ground,” he said. “We should be encouraging our European partners to cough up more.”

The candidates also took stands against vaccine and mask mandates as government overreach that rob Americans of their freedom.

“The [federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has gotten to be political rather than science-based,” Clark said. “They have got to be reined in.”

An issue that divides the Senate Republican candidates – mirroring a split in the Georgia GOP – is whether President Joe Biden captured the state’s 16 electoral votes in November 2020 fair and square.

Clark said the election in Georgia was “stolen” from Republican Donald Trump, blaming the mailing out of nearly 7 million absentee ballot requests for “massive ballot harvesting” that affected the outcome.

King said there were undoubtedly “improprieties” but stopped short of declaring they had an effect on the results.

Black and McColumn said they were disturbed by Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results outside the legal process.

“When people ignore the rule of law, there’s trouble,” McColumn said.

Black and Saddler said the passage of election reforms by the Republican-controlled General Assembly last year should help retore public trust in the voting process.

“People just want transparency,” Saddler said. “We need to go back to the paper ballots and voting in person.”

The candidates are united in casting doubt on Walker’s chances to defeat Warnock this fall, even if he coasts to the Republican nomination this month as expected.

Black’s campaign pointed to a poll released Thursday by SurveyUSA that shows Walker losing to Warnock by 5 points, 50% to 45%.

“Herschel Walker is ignoring the voters of Georgia,” Black said. “Herschel Walker will not win in November.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.