Georgia Republicans have nominated former football star Herschel Walker to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, CNN projects, in what’s expected to be one of the most important US Senate races of the 2022 midterm elections.
Walker, 60, who was urged to run by former President Donald Trump, is a political newcomer – but a celebrity in the state where he won the 1982 Heisman trophy as one of college football’s greatest running backs of all time at the University of Georgia.
His Senate run opened the candidate to scrutiny of his personal life, including the resurfacing of allegations of domestic violence and threats against former romantic partners.
Still, Walker breezed through the primary, skipping debates and forums that would have forced him to take clear policy positions and answer tough questions. His main competitor was Gary Black, the state’s longtime agriculture commissioner, but Black did not raise enough money to run a serious television advertising campaign that could have exploited Walker’s vulnerabilities.
The general election contest is likely to touchon race. Warnock is Georgia’s first Black senator, and Walker would be the second. Warnock preaches at Martin Luther King Jr.’s former church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and has a long record as a civil rights champion. Walker, meanwhile, has long expressed ambivalence about racial issues.
Democrats won control of the US Senate last year, after Warnock and Jon Ossoff both won runoff elections in Georgia. But Democrats’ hold on the Senate is by the narrowest of margins – with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 chamber – and the party cannot afford a net loss of a single seat in the 2022 midterms.
Walker has had a long relationship with Trump, dating to 1984, when the former President – then the owner of the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals – gave Walker a contract extension.
Walker later appeared on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” with Trump and encouraged his 2016 and 2020 presidential bids.