© 2022 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
NPR News

Herschel Walker easily wins Georgia's Republican Senate primary

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, will face Republican nominee Herschel Walker in November.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images; Megan Varner/Getty Images
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, will face Republican nominee Herschel Walker in November.

Updated May 24, 2022 at 8:33 PM ET

Former University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker comfortably secured the state's Republican nomination for U.S. Senate Tuesday, according to a race call by The Associated Press.

Walker, backed by former President Donald Trump, is one of the party's top fundraisers as the GOP seeks to regain control of the upper chamber after losing both of Georgia's U.S. Senate seats in January 2021 runoffs.

The first-time candidate's celebrity status — and a campaign that has largely avoided public events and non-friendly media interviews — prevailed in a crowded six-way race to face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in November.

Challengers like Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and military veteran Latham Saddler failed to gain much traction in the state against Walker, whose claim to fame includes winning the college football Heisman Trophy, playing in the National Football League and competing as an Olympic athlete.

While top Republicans like Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have embraced Walker, local Republicans have warned that his untested campaign and past controversies might not be successful against Warnock in a general election.

Walker, who has openly discussed his struggles with dissociative identity disorder, faces past accusations of violence against women and threatening behavior and an onslaught of reports of overstated business successes and personal achievements before running for office.

Walker's victory in Georgia is one of the few bright spots for Trump-endorsed primary candidates, as former Sen. David Perdue suffered a blowout loss to incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp.

Warnock is one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection this year as Democrats' favorability — particularly President Biden's — has cratered in recent months.

After Georgia's U.S. Senate runoffs flipped control of the chamber in 2021, the battle between Warnock and Walker is expected to play a crucial role in the Senate this year, as well.

Both Walker and Warnock are now looking ahead toward a costly, bruising general election campaign. Warnock's campaign issued a memo Tuesday highlighting his time in office so far and attacking Walker's controversial past.

"While Reverend Warnock continues to do the job for all Georgians, Walker has quickly shown Georgians he's not ready to be a U.S. Senator," Warnock campaign manager Quentin Fulks wrote. "As the election continues, our campaign remains confident that when faced with the choice between Reverend Warnock and Walker, Georgians will choose to send Reverend Warnock back to Washington to continue working for them."

Copyright 2022 Georgia Public Broadcasting