Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, will meet Friday night for their only debate in Georgia’s flagship senatorial contestjust days before early in-person voting begins.
The 60-minute session, which will take place in front of a live audience, follows reports that Walker paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009 before later conceiving a child with her. Plus, the confrontation could force both men to respond to other attacks — personal and political — that have flooded voters’ TV screens and social media feeds for months.
“Raphael Warnock will have to answer why he voted 96% of the time with (President) Joe Biden, giving us record inflation, while doubling his own income,” Walker’s aide Will Kiley said, giving insight. assertions now familiar from Republicans.
Warnock campaign manager Quentin Fulks wrote in a memo that the debate will shed light on Walker’s “pattern of lies, disturbing behavior and stance” that “proves he is not prepared to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. Fulks added, however, that Warnock would point to his nearly two years in the Senate as proof that he “will work with anyone to help the people of our state.”
These previews show Warnock, the 53-year-old pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Walker, the 60-year-old former college and pro football star, contesting a midterm election that will help determine which party controls the Senate for the last two years of Biden’s term.
Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won their Senate seats in a January 2021 special election two months after Biden won Georgia by less than 12,000 votes out of 5 million votes. It was the first time in two decades that Democrats had won a federal election in the historically conservative state, raising questions about whether Warnock could replicate his victory in a midterm election, especially with dwindling popularity. of Biden among Georgian voters.
Walker captured this landscape, caricatured Warnock as a rubber stamp for the administration. Warnock’s response was to emphasize legislative achievements in Washington, highlighting provisions he sponsored capping insulin and other health care costs for Medicare beneficiaries. , the Democrats’ expansion of the child tax credit, and the infrastructure provisions that Warnock spearheaded with fellow Republicans.
A major variable in the debate is how aggressively Warnock chooses to directly attack Walker over various allegations and disclosures that surfaced throughout the campaign. The senator has generally fallen short of his general assertion that Walker is ill-prepared for his duties. But debate moderators could inject more details about Walker’s past.
Recent reports from The Daily Beast revealed records of an abortion receipt and subsequent personal check from Walker to a woman who said the famous football icon paid for her abortion when they were dating. Walker, who as a candidate supports an outright national abortion ban, keep denying Reports, even after the woman identified herself as the mother of one of her four children.
Other reports, including from the Associated Press, detailed how Walker exaggerated his academic achievements, business successes and philanthropic activitiesas well as accusations that he threatened the life of his ex-wife that go beyond the details Walker himself acknowledged in a 2008 memoir and subsequent media interviews. walker too publicly acknowledged three of his children for the first time only after previous reports from Daily Beast. Prior to his Senate bid, he had only spoken publicly about Christian Walker, his adult son by his first wife.
Walker, as is the case with challengers battling the incumbents, has proven to be much more eager to tackle Warnock directly. Citing financial disclosures from the Warnock Senate, Walker accuses Warnock of using the Senate to enrich himself. Warnock brought in income from a book deal after his election to the Senate. He also brings in a monthly housing allowance from the Ebenezer Baptist Church of more than $7,000 – an arrangement that allows Warnock to continue to receive a considerable annual sum from the church for his role as senior pastor without breaking the rules of the church. federal ethics capping senators’ outside income.
National Republicans, meanwhile, recently ran ads highlighting Warnock’s personal life. An advertisement refers to a March 2020 incident in which Warnock’s wife, Oulèye Ndoye, told police that he ran over her foot with his vehicle. Police records indicate that officers found no evidence that Warnock did so. The couple divorced before Warnock’s election to the Senate; they share two young children.
Walker himself avoided attacks on Warnock’s family life, although he campaigned earlier this week with Senator Rick Scott of Floridawho chairs the Senate GOP campaign arm that paid for some of those ads.
The Savannah debate, coming a few days before Monday’s start of in-person early voting, is the only meeting of two rivals because Walker refused to accept the three fall debates typical of Georgian campaigns. Warnock agreed to this list of proposed debates in June, only for Walker to balk and counter with Friday’s debate. Friday’s debate will not include libertarian Chase Oliver, who did not meet organizers’ voting threshold.
Only one of those original three debates is still scheduled: Warnock will meet with Oliver at a Sunday session sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club. In this debate, Walker will be represented by an empty podium because he declined the invitation.
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