Who are Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock — the two men competing for Georgia’s Senate seat?

Election 2022 Georgia Senate (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Election 2022 Georgia Senate (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

On Tuesday, Georgia will hold the final Senate contest of the 2022 midterm election when Senator Raphael Warnock and hopeful Herschel Walker face each other in a runoff election.

Neither candidate received a majority of the vote in November and Georgia law stipulates that as a result, the two would face each other in a runoff a month later.

While Democrats are guaranteed to hold the majority, they only hold 50 seats so far while Republicans hold 49. A 51-seat majority means they would be less reliant on Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties.

Who is Raphael Warnock?

Mr Warnock is currently the junior Senator from Georgia and finds himself in the same place he was in January of last year. In 2020, he and Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler went into a runoff in 2021. But that race was only to finish the term of the late Senator Johnny Isakson, who resigned in 2019 due to health complications, meaning Mr Warnock would serve for less than two years. He is the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Georgia since Zell Miller won a special election in 2000.

Mr Warnock also serves as the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr and his father preached.

Who is Herschel Walker?

To call Mr Walker a legend in Georgia would be an understatement. As a running back for the University of Georgia, he led the Bulldogs to a national championship in 1980 and won the Heisman Trophy in 1982. Afterward, Mr Walker joined the United States Football League and joined the New Jersey Generals, a team owned by real estate mogul Donald Trump. Afterward, he joined the National Football League, where he played for the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring.

Throughout that time, he remained friendly with former president Donald Trump and spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2020, discussing his friendship with the president. After the special election last year, Mr Trump floated the idea of Mr Walker running for Senate against Mr Warnock.

What are the major issues in the race?

Like every other election, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v Jackson decision that overturned Roe v Wade factored in heavily into the Georgia runoff. Mr Warnock has often called himself a “pro-choice pastor” and came under scrutiny in the first and only debate between the two candidates when he said “even God gave us a choice.”

Mr Walker, for his part, has said that he opposes abortion, including in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered. Furthermore, inflation and crime have also played major roles, specifically as Mr Walker has hit out against Mr Warnock for voting with President Joe Biden 96 per cent of the time.

What are the major controversies?

By far the biggest controversies in the race come from allegations waged againstMr Walker. Despite his public opposition to abortion, he allegedly paid for one woman’s abortion and pressured another woman to have an abortion. The Daily Beast reported the first allegation while the second woman spoke at two press conferences.

Additionally, Mr Walker, despite being a native of Wrightsville, Georgia, lived in Dallas for many years. CNN reported that Mr Walker was set to receive a tax break for people who consider Texas their primary residence even after he relocated to Georgia.

Who is leading in the polls and early voting?

Multiple polls show Mr Warnock leading polls. A CNN survey showed he led Mr Walker by four points. Another InsiderAdvantage poll shows Mr Warnock with a slight lead. In addition, counties that voted for Mr Warnock in November have seen large swaths turn out in early voting during last week.

The Warnock campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Georgia Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to allow for some counties to begin allowing early voting the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which succeeded.

Why the Senate race matters?

Democrats already won control of the Senate when Senators Mark Kelly of Arizona, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada all won re-election while John Fetterman flipped Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat. If Mr Walker wins, that would keep the Senate at its current 50-50 split where Vice President Kamala Harris often breaks ties. But a Warnock victory would give Democrats an additional member on committees, which would allow them to avoid ties for confirmations, particularly in the Senate Judiciary Committee.