Tuesday’s debate between the Republican candidates for the Georgia Senate was unsurprisingly defined by the man who wasn’t there: Herschel Walker.
If the race wasn’t dominated by Walker’s football celebrity and Donald Trump endorsement, Gary Black, Latham Saddler, Kelvin King, Josh Clark and Jon McColumn might be more viable candidates for the Republican nomination. But instead, each kept trying to find a case for Republican voters to turn away from Walker and consider him in the May 24 primary as an alternative to facing Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in November.
“This is our fifth debate or forum where he’s not showing up,” said Saddler, a Navy veteran and former bank executive. “We need a leader or fighter to show up to defeat Raphael Warnock in November. Raphael Warnock is a very fluid Operator, we got to see him in action this last election cycle.”
The Atlanta Press Club, which sponsored the debate televised by Georgia Public Broadcasting, set up an empty podium for Walker, while the other candidates took turns taking advantage of his absence.
His goal is to drag Walker into a second round, hoping the favorite can’t float above the fray in a one-on-one matchup. Black, Georgia’s agricultural commissioner-elect, has made the strongest attacks against Walker, saying Tuesday that he is ineligible in November due to questions about his past that include “domestic violence, stalking of women, threats of shootings with police , businesses that have gone bad”.
Officers responding to a 2001 report that Walker was armed and scaring his ex-wife at a suburban Dallas home later noted that Walker “discussed having a shootout with police,” according to a police report unsealed by the AP in February. In a protective order filed by his then-ex-wife in 2005, Walker was accused of repeatedly threatening his life. He also faced questions about whether he lied about graduating from the University of Georgia, being the valedictorian of his high school and whether he has inflated his business history.
Walker has been open about his long struggle with mental illness and acknowledged violent impulses. His campaign has dismissed the report of a shooting and blamed the media for highlighting it.
“Herschel Walker is not going to win in November, so selecting someone who can win, who has a record that can beat Raphael Warnock, should be the number one priority,” Black said.
Walker has dismissed calls for debate, telling a radio station on April 20 that his opponents were jealous.
“Because now Herschel is going to win that seat,” Walker told WDUN-AM. “They can’t win it, so they go to the old politics where people are tired of it.”
Walker’s spokeswoman, Mallory Blount, posted on social media late Tuesday that Walker would be meeting with voters in Burke County, near Augusta. “Hope you guys have fun obsessing over Herschel Walker in the debate!” she wrote on Twitter.
The candidates at times had a standard Republican debate on Tuesday, all saying they would welcome a potential US Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and declare that they want a total ban on abortion.
“I want to ask people who are pro-abortion, I want to ask you this question, what did the baby do wrong to deserve to be killed?” said McColumn, a retired brigadier general.
Several candidates have promised to cut federal spending as a way to fight inflation. When asked about health care, Clark proclaimed his opposition to former President Barack Obama’s health care reform, and the former state representative said he wanted to promote patient choice. Saddler defended himself against Clark’s accusations that he is a former Democrat and a “global elitist,” promoting his experience working in the White House during the Trump administration.
King, a contractor and Air Force veteran, touted himself as the most well-rounded, while Clark noted he was the only candidate with legislative experience, saying he “would be the tiebreaker vote that could serve the citizens of Georgia.” since the first day”. .”
Multiple candidates expressed varying degrees of skepticism that President Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 election in Georgia over Trump. Some repeated Trump’s lies that the vote was stolen, even though the moderator pointed out that Trump’s own attorney general said there was no significant evidence of fraud.
But in the end, attention returned to the empty podium and the man who wasn’t there. Saddler suggested that Walker, if he couldn’t handle a Republican primary debate where the candidates agreed on most things, he wouldn’t be up for major challenges.
“I think a simple question for Herschel Walker is, what do you think the United States Senate does?” Saddler said. “It is the deliberative body of Congress. It’s what you do as a United States Senator, you get up and debate ideas… And Herschel Walker can’t come up here.”