Before Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker walked onto the debate stage Friday night, supporters for both men raged outside of the venue in Savannah, Georgia, holding signs and chanting loudly.
While Sen. Warnock’s supporters were primarily Black, with chants that were heartfelt and deeply soulful, fans of the Republican nominee Herschel Walker were primarily white, and their cheers were sad and sort of out of rhythm. In many ways, the supporters mimicked the candidates.
Walker, who has the endorsement of Donald Trump, toed the GOP company line at the debate. He blustered against Warnock with the all too familiar rhetoric of high taxes, open borders, inflation, and Christian values like bashing transgender athletes. His opening statement ended with “I’m gonna fix it,” something only someone with zero understanding of governing would say.
Warnock spoke about growing up as one of 12 children in a housing project just a mile from the debate stage, and talked about policies that offered equality for all on issues such as health care, student loan debt, a price cap on insulin, and an American’s right to choose their reproductive health. There is no doubt these two men could not be more different.
Walker was on the attack out of the gate. He wanted to prove that he could, in fact, string some sentences together and was fit to lead the state. When asked about government cuts to inflation, he went down a winding path about the country needing to be “energy independent” because “we’re getting our gas from enemies who don’t like us.”
Warnock countered with his record of helping to pass “the single largest tax cut” for middle-class families. He was talking about the Child Tax Credit within the American Rescue Plan. Under the plan, “families will receive tax credits up to $3,000 for each child between the ages of six and 17 and up to $3,600 for children under the age of six,” according to Georgia Public Broadcasting. Warnock also played a part in passing the Inflation Reduction Act.
When asked about Georgia’s voting laws, specifically SB 202, Walker said it “made it easier to vote and harder to cheat.” Let’s unpack that.
One of the most significant reasons Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is encouraging Georgians to vote early is that Republicans are doing everything they can to disrupt this election and stop Democrats from being able to vote.
This year, Republicans have attempted to purge thousands upon thousands of voter registrations, all in the name of alleged voter fraud. They’re using SB 202, a bill signed into law by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp after the loss of Donald Trump in 2020, to “police Georgia’s voter list,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s (AJC) Mark Niesse writes.
Nsé Ufot, chief executive of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, told The Guardian, “There’s no doubt that the senate bill 202 push, much like the January 6 insurrection, was a response to the sort of multiracial rising American electorate. Full stop … I see a straight line between those two dots. No curve.”
When Walker was asked about whether or not he believed Biden won the election in 2020. He admitted that he had. Finally.
But that’s not what he said during a Fox News interview in December 2020. “I can guarantee you, Joe Biden didn’t get 50 million people to vote for him, but yet, people think that he’s won this election.”
In the debate, Walker added, “President Trump is my friend.”
In one heated exchange on the topic of abortion, Walker defended allegations reported by The Daily Beast that he paid a former girlfriend to have an abortion. Walker called the story “a flat-out lie.”
But, when it comes to a total ban on abortion, which he’s said he supported, Walker back peddled and said he supported the “heartbeat bill,” which has exceptions for rape and incest because he supported the bill voted on by Georgians. Warnock has said repeatedly and said so during the debate that he is pro-choice. “I trust women more than I trust politicians,” Warnock said.
Walker continued to challenge Warnock on his Christian values and on the depth of his faith.
Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, ended that segment of the debate with: “I think he wants to arrogate more to politicians more power than God has.”
When asked about student loan forgiveness, Walker said he was opposed to it because not everyone wants to go to college. “Maybe they go into the military and lost an arm.” Okay… Warnock countered with a challenge about why Walker hasn’t mentioned: “corporate entities who’ve gotten PPP loans.”
On putting a federal minimum wage into place, Walker opposed it, while Warnock advocated for a “livable wage” for all.
Warnock refused to dip his toes in Walker’s mess, and took an overall calm tone. Except when challenged on whether or not he supported law enforcement. That’s when things got Walker-weird.
Warnock responded with, “We will see time and time again, as we have already seen, that my opponent has a problem with the truth,” Warnock said. “And just because he says something doesn’t mean it’s true.” Adding, “one thing I’ve never done is pretended to be a police officer, and I’ve never threatened a shootout with the police.”
Then, out of nowhere, Walker pulled out what appeared to be a fake sheriff’s badge, saying, “I’ve worked with many police officers.” A move that was against the rules of the debate. When the moderator told him no props were allowed, he claimed it “was real.”
Since Daily Kos began reporting on Walker, we’ve covered lie upon lie about everything from his graduating from the University of Georgia, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; to hiding the fact that he had any children other than his 22-year-old son Christian; to the mammoth exaggerations about his business acumen; to the tall tale about the time he founded (or co-founded) the veterans’ organization Patriot Support—which he did not. He recently tried to deny that Donald Trump ever said the 2020 election was stolen, and lies about his companies’ alleged charitable donations, nearly none of which were able to be verified by The Washington Post. Walker even tried to tie himself to Indigenous people by claiming that his mother told him that his grandmother was “full-blood Cherokee,” something that has not been verified, and even his mother seemed confused about when asked.
Following the debate, the only one where the candidates will face off before the election, Walker sent in his surrogates to speak with the press.
First up was Ralph Reed, a political strategist in GOP politics for three decades, and the former state party chair. Reed told reporters he was elated by Walker’s performance.
“Herschel did a good job of keeping expectations low,” Reed said. And Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, a Republican state congressman, told the press, “I have not been as proud to have Herschel Walker on my team since he played football for the University of Georgia.”
In the end, Walker’s strategy was to tie Warnock to Biden as a negative thing. But the truth is Biden has achieved so much in just two short years. Dark Brandon is on a roll, and no matter what Walker and the GOP say, you can’t take away the numerous accomplishments. Let’s just hope folks get out and vote!
The Atlanta Press Club will host another Senate debate on Monday. Warnock has agreed to attend, along with Chase Oliver, a Libertarian candidate in the race. Walker has not committed, The Washington Post reports.
Instead, Walker has agreed to sit down for a televised town hall hosted by Fox News’s Sean Hannity in Acworth, Ga., north of Atlanta.
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