No, Republican U.S. Senate contender Herschel Walker is not debating other Republican candidates in the May 24 primary, for which early voting is now underway. But after he wins that primary, he will debate the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Raphael Warnock, Walker told reporters Wednesday near Statesboro.
Those were two of the things the Statesboro Herald asked Walker when he took questions from journalists at the conclusion of his midday campaign rally in the arena of the Bulloch County Agricultural Complex.
As first asked, the question was simply: Will you participate in any debates?
“I won’t participate in debates they’re doing that the guys ain’t doing the work, because one of the things that they told me when they told me to run, they said, ‘Herschel, you’ve got to be able to raise money,’ ‘Herschel, you’ve got to get people to cross over,’ and you’ve been looking at it,” he answered. “My opponents aren’t doing the work, but they want me to help them to get votes. They want me to go out and entertain for them.”
This was a reference to the debates among the Republican primary candidates, in which Walker has not participated. The latest was Tuesday night, sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club and televised by Georgia Public Broadcasting. The other five GOP candidates on the May 24 ballot — Gary Black, Latham Saddler, Kelvin King, Josh Clark and Jon McColumn — were there, and again made a point of Walker’s absence, The Associated Press reported.
“But this is not time to entertain, this is a new era, when you’ve got crime on the street that has gotten so bad, you’ve got this economy that is going crazy, this border wide open, and we’re talking about debating,” Walker continued in response to the question Wednesday. “Why don’t you get out and meet the people, like I’ve done? I’m getting out and I’m meeting the people, I want the people to know what I’ve done, not the people that I’m debating.”
Claims to fame
Unlike any of his opponents, he entered the race with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, which Walker didn’t actually mention here, and 40 years of fame. Walker, who is now 60, grew up in Wrightsville and played football for the University of Georgia through three record-setting years, including the undefeated 1980 National Championship season, and won the Heisman Trophy in 1982.
He then played professionally for the New Jersey Generals, of which Trump became the owner, in the United States Football League before going on to play for a series of four different NFL teams, beginning and ending with the Dallas Cowboys.
Walker also, as he noted for the crowd here, competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics as a member of the U.S. bobsled team. In 1999, he founded Renaissance Man Food Services, which distributes chicken products.
He told reporters he’d love for the other candidates to “measure up.”
“Take athletics away from me; they still don’t measure up,” Walker said, “and I said, ‘Guys, I’m here to beat Raphael Warnock.’ I got into this game and that’s what I said, the reason I got in, I can defeat him, they can’t.”
So, the Herald asked him if he will debate Warnock after the primary.
“Oh, I’m ready to debate Raphael Warnock,” Walker said. “When he’s ready to go, I’m ready to go. Anytime he shows up, I’ll show up right there with him.”
A reporter for WTOC-TV asked Walker about Monday’s revelation of a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that, if formally approved by a majority of the justices, would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. As he had done in his remarks to the crowd, Walker asserted a “pro-life” stance linked to his Christian faith, without saying specifically whether he wants the new opinion to stand.
“There’s no doubt, I’m life, I’m pro-life,” he began his answer. “I believe in Christ, I’m a Christian, and that’s where I’ve always been, I don’t make any excuses for it.”
Then, like some other political figures on both sides of the political divide, he decried the leak as damaging.
“I think the most serious problem (is) you have someone that leaked things out, because right now, what he leaked out is not even finished, and we’re in the midterm, we’ve got people arguing right now, you’ve got people protesting right now, and we’ve even got leaders in Washington when they know that’s not finished, out there protesting too, yelling,” Walker said. “So what are they trying to do? They’re trying to make people emotional, and I think that’s what’s sad.
“I think what we need to do is start finding the leakers and hold them accountable. …,” he continued. “Right now, when you start trying to intimidate the Supreme Court, judges, I think that’s a problem right there.”
A Black candidate speaking to a crowd of between 200 and 300 people, most but not all of them white, at the Bulloch County Ag Complex, Walker decried “Critical Race Theory” as divisive. Discussed at universities and in academic journals, the theory was never part of Georgia’s primary and secondary school curriculum, and the state now has a law against teaching it in the K–12 public schools, a law opponents say stymies discussion of race and its role in American history more broadly.
“I’m sick and tired of this, trying to separate our kids, you know, trying to teach that Critical Race Theory,” Walker said. “Wow, are you serious? Why don’t we teach them how to read? … Yeah, we can teach them history, we can teach them all of that stuff, but yet we want to teach them to hate themselves because of the color of their skin? We want to teach them that, hey, this person took advantage of you? Well, you know what? We don’t know who did what, and to be honest with you, some of you don’t know if you’re a slave owner’s kid or a slave yourself.”
He also vowed support for the military and for law enforcement, stated his opposition to “defunding the police,” and spoke repeatedly of his Christian faith and talked about his past mental health struggles.
Preliminaries to Walker’s speech included prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem plus “God Bless America” and a brief introduction. Carrying a U.S. flag, Andrea Hagan rode out on Dobbie, a rescued, blind, 20-year Tennessee Walking Horse and circled the stage.
After speaking, Walker had photos taken with members of Girl Scout Troop 30478, Brooklet, who wore red shirts emblazoned with “34,” Walker’s retired Georgia Bulldogs jersey number, toward an “Act of Kindness” badge.