Walker and Sen. Warnock Bicker Over Terms of Debate in Georgia

Walker and Sen. Warnock Bicker Over Terms of Debate in Georgia
Herschel Walker is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Georgia. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM )
Dan M. Berger

Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd on Sept. 8, Republican challenger Herschel Walker needled his opponent, the incumbent Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, about what Walker framed as Warnock’s unwillingness to debate him.

“The . . . big contrast between the two of us, and ... You may not have heard this. The man is scared to debate me. Y’all hear? ... No, he don’t want to debate me. I told him to show up October the fourteenth in Savannah, his hometown, and the man is still running. But he don’t know I can catch him,” Walker said, drawing a big laugh from the crowd, many old enough to remember when he was better known locally as a Georgia Bulldogs football player, before going on to an illustrious athletic career that included pro football, track, mixed martial arts, and the Olympics.

One major forecaster, Real Clear Politics, shows Walker averaging a half a percentage point ahead of Warnock and rates the race a toss-up. The last three polls listed by different firms, all in late August or early September, have shown Walker ahead variously by 1 to 3 percentage points, within the margin of error. One of those polling firms, Fox 5/InsiderAdvantage, in late July showed Warnock ahead by 4 points, and he led Walker in nearly every poll listed since April. 

Who’s been dodging a debate with whom in this closely watched Senate race is a matter of contention. The two camps have dickered over whether to debate at all, over how many debates to have, where to have them, with which sponsors, and in what format.

Warnock’s camp used a sports metaphor of its own in a press release on Sept. 7 regarding the debates.

Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks at an Augusta canvass launch block party in Hepzibah, Ga., on Jan. 4, 2021. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks at an Augusta canvass launch block party in Hepzibah, Ga., on Jan. 4, 2021. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“Today, the Warnock for Georgia campaign is challenging Herschel Walker to quit the games and show whether he’s really ready to represent Georgia,” the release said. “After Herschel Walker repeatedly claimed he was ready to debate, even going so far as to say Reverend Warnock should name the time and place, Walker has now done everything he can to avoid being forced to answer questions.”

Warnock’s camp originally pitched a slate of three debates. It framed Walker’s refusal to agree to it as the unpolished rookie politician’s unwillingness to debate the senator, who preaches weekly at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. once held forth. Walker, with a massive lead in polls over his Republican primary opponents, didn’t participate in the primary debates.

The two campaigns seemed to inch closer to an agreement this week as Warnock said he would take part in the Savannah debate, provided that Walker agrees to a second debate in Macon or Atlanta and also agreed not to require that questions be disclosed in advance.

Walker’s campaign has not yet responded to a query from The Epoch Times about whether he would go along with Warnock’s proposals.

Walker sought to put the onus back on Warnock. “I said, put your big-man pants on. Show up and show the people what you can do. I’m just a country boy. Remember, I don’t know what I’m talking about. So why don’t you show up and embarrass me?”

Walker spoke to about 200 enthusiastic fans in front of Cumming Cigar Company in this exurban town in Forsyth County, a half hour north of Atlanta. The busy Georgia 400 Expressway makes it possible to commute to the city, but relatively few people do, said software salesman Chris Stanko, a resident of Cumming. They like their distance from the big city and, more often, commute to suburbs like Alpharetta, where many tech companies are located, he said.

Stanko said he came to Walker’s speech because he’d known Walker when both were students at the University of Georgia.  A 1983 graduate, Stanko lived upstairs from Walker’s then-girlfriend, later wife, and now ex-wife, Cindy DeAngelis, and socialized with them.

“[Walker] was a super dude. He couldn’t have been nicer and more accommodating. He’d sign autographs for our family and friends. And he was a great gentleman. It’s hard to believe that forty years later, I’d be this old, and he’d be running for the Senate in Georgia.” Stanko brought a jersey he was hoping Walker would sign. He said he hadn’t kept up with Walker in the intervening years but had kept up with his pro football career, watching him on television when he played for Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals in the old USFL.

Seeing a reporter from The Epoch Times, a woman in the crowd approached him. “I want to tell Mitch McConnell that this is winnable,” said Nancy Voss, alluding to the Senate minority leader’s downplaying the Republicans’ chances of getting a majority in the chamber. “Because Herschel Walker is trustworthy.”

Avis Everett of Cumming agreed with that sentiment. She and her husband, Ed, chatted after the event with longtime Georgia Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald and his wife, Shelley. McDonald had led the crowd in singing “God Bless America” before Walker spoke.

“Herschel Walker is the finest candidate we could have,” Everett said. “We want Herschel to take this!”

Walker spoke enthusiastically and without notes for about 15 minutes to the crowd—some in the sunshine and some in the shade of tents erected by the Republican Women of Forsyth County. He seemed to be hitting his stride on the campaign trail, gaining in confidence over the last few weeks.

He pounded Warnock for supporting President Joe Biden 96 percent of the time, tying him to Biden’s open borders policy, and the weak economy. He chided his opponent for his lack of support for police and for his demand, according to Walker, that “America must apologize for its whiteness.”

Walker blamed Democrats “for bringing wokeness in our military, the greatest fighting force ever assembled before God. ... Our military is the reason we’re the greatest country in the world. And right now, they’re talking about pronouns. Are you serious?”