ATLANTA (AP) – Herschel Walker filed documents on Tuesday to run for the U.S. Senate in Georgia after months of speculation, joining other Republicans seeking to overthrow Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock in 2022.
Walker, 59, joined the race with great notoriety, having won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 as a University of Georgia running back. Perhaps most prominently in the Republican Party today, he carries the support of former President Donald Trump.
Walker has never stood for election and will likely come under scrutiny over his turbulent personal history as well as political positions. But if he comes out of the Republican primary, the Senate competition would feature two black men vying for a seat in the heart of the Deep South.
Walker remained silent on Tuesday, continuing a series of a few comments as he began to run for the Senate. He registered to vote last week, using an Atlanta residence owned by his wife, Julie Blanchard. Walker on Tuesday signed Federal Election Commission documents declaring his candidacy, allowing him to raise money for a Senate race.
Republicans already running for the Senate seat include state agriculture commissioner Gary Black, former banking executive and naval veteran Latham Saddler and entrepreneur Kelvin King. Some other potential GOP candidates might not show up with Walker’s entry into the race, including former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost to Warnock in a special election in January, and U.S. Representative Buddy Carter, four-term congressman from near Savannah.
Walker and Trump’s relationship dates back to the 1980s, when Walker played for a Trump-owned team in the short-lived United States Football League. Walker, who went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, expressed his support for Trump at the 2020 Republican National Convention and then attended Trump’s private birthday celebration.
Trump publicly encouraged Walker to enter the primary, telling a radio show in June that “he’s a great guy, he’s a patriot and he’s a very loyal person, he’s a very strong person. They love it in Georgia, I’m telling you.
With Trump as a “defining figure” in today’s GOP, University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock has said his support may be all Walker needs.
“If he tells them they have to come out and vote for Herschel Walker, that’s the strongest approval he can get,” Bullock said.
Walker’s supporters hope he can reach moderate Republicans and eliminate some traditional African Americans. But the support of the former president could be a handicap in a general election in a very divided Georgia, where a crucial fraction of the wealthier GOP voters have defected in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.
“At the end of this long, discordant and costly struggle within the party, it will be clear that none of these candidates are focusing on the issues that matter most to Georgians,” said the spokesperson for the Democratic Party. from Georgia, Dan Gottlieb, in a statement.
Walker could share a Republican ticket with Gov. Brian Kemp, a frequent target of Trump attacks, as Kemp seeks re-election. Trump vowed revenge on Kemp, saying he didn’t do enough to reverse Trump’s election defeat. It’s unclear whether this feud would hurt Republicans’ chances, with Democrats possibly presenting a united ticket from Warnock and Stacey Abrams. Walker supported Kemp, an avid Georgia football fan, in Kemp’s 2018 victory over Abrams.
Warnock has already raised $ 10.5 million for the 2022 race but played down Walker’s entry. He is now traveling the state to promote an employment program.
“And I heard there is a race next year,” Warnock told the Atlanta Press Club last week when asked about Walker.
Black modified Walker for his long absence from Georgia, and did so again on Tuesday in a video “welcoming” Walker to the run and daring him to come to a Republican fry on Saturday south of Macon.
“I guess I always wanted an autograph,” said Black, holding a skated soccer ball. “But there are things that are much more important now: the future of our country, the future of our families. “
Sadler said in a statement he was a better choice as “the next generation Conservative leader who can beat Raphael Warnock.”
“This campaign is not about the glories of yesterday; it’s about the future of our nation, ”Sadler said.
Walker lived outside of Dallas and made his first candidacy. Untested as a candidate, it is unclear whether he will be a campaigner or a fundraiser, while also fleshing out his positions on political issues he has never had to address in detail . Walker backed Trump’s baseless claims that he was cheated on re-election.
Walker also has a turbulent personal history that could be factored into a campaign.
A review of the Associated Press’s public records revealed detailed accusations that Walker repeatedly threatened the life of his ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, by telling relatives he would kill Grossman and her new boyfriend. Walker denied the charges, but a judge granted a protection order in 2005 and for a time banned Walker from owning firearms.
In 2008, Walker wrote a book detailing his struggles with mental illness. He wrote that he was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder. He said he had built alternative personalities to defend himself against the bullying he had experienced as an overweight and stuttering child. Walker grew up in Wrightsville, 80 miles east of Macon.
Walker also wrote that he was playing Russian roulette with a gun at his kitchen table in 1991. Overall, Walker presented his story as a turnaround, claiming he had found a path to “l ‘integration’ through therapy and Christian faith.
The book caused trouble at one of Walker’s key business relationships. In a legal deposition in 2019, a director at food distributor Sysco said the company nearly severed ties with Walker’s poultry business, Renaissance Man Food Services, when the book wreaked “havoc.” In the end, Sysco stayed with Walker’s business until the controversy died down.
Walker has more recently made disproportionate claims about his business success. He has repeatedly claimed that his company employs hundreds of workers and has annual sales of $ 70 million or more.
But Walker’s company reported just eight employees when it applied for a federal loan under the Paycheck Protection Program last year. In a recent court case, Walker said his company made an average profit of around $ 1.5 million per year from 2008 to 2017.
State election officials open an investigation into his wife’s residence after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that records show Blanchard voted in Georgia while living in Texas. Walker is among Trump supporters who keep repeating the president’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him by fraud. Nationwide election officials found no widespread fraud.
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.