Politics

Well, That (Herschel Walker’s Senate Campaign) Was Really Something, Wasn’t It?

Let’s review the timeline.

Walker, smiling in a red polo shirt, is foregrounded in front  of an image of a pro-choice sign, an image of his estranged son Christian, an illustration of Texas, and a headline from a Daily Beast story about his allegedly paying for an abortion.
Herschel Walker and Herschel Walker’s baggage. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by James Gilbert/Getty Images, Mlyons/iStock/Getty Images Plus, Derek White/Getty Images for MoveOn, Daily Beast, and Christian Walker/Twitter.

What a ride we—the people of the United States—just finished!

Summer 2021: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell sends what CNN describes as “a clear message in the press”—as in, via anonymous leaks and background quotes and so forth—that he has “concerns” about football star-turned-conservative media personality Herschel Walker, who is considering a Georgia Senate candidacy.

Press reports note that Walker has been accused of threatening and violent behavior toward romantic partners and of greatly exaggerating his record as an entrepreneur. McConnell reportedly believes this would make his nomination “a dangerous gamble” in a swing state for Republicans, who need only to net one seat to regain control of the Senate—which would typically not be a tall order given that it’s going to be a midterm election in which a Democrat is president.

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August 2021: Walker, who played on Donald Trump’s USFL football league team in the 1980s and later competed on The Celebrity Apprentice, is endorsed by Trump.

September 2021: McConnell tells Politico the following about Walker: “There are some things written that indicate he’s had some challenges in his life. On the other hand, the good news is, he’s made several impressive performances on national television.”

November 2021: McConnell endorses Walker.

May 24, 2022: Walker wins the Republican primary by more than 50 points, earning the right to run against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock in fall.

May 26, 2022: Walker responds to the Uvalde, Texas school massacre on Fox News by suggesting that the federal government could prevent such shootings by launching “a department that can look at young men that’s looking at women, that’s looking at their social media.”

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June 13, 2022: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution publishes a story headlined, “Herschel Walker said he worked in law enforcement — he didn’t.” It documents Walker’s history of saying he worked “in law enforcement” or “in criminal justice”—and, on one occasion each, claiming to have been an FBI agent and “peace officer”—despite his experience in the field being limited, in reality, to having delivered occasional motivational speeches and making promotional appearances.

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June 14 and 15, 2022: Reporting by the Daily Beast and a subsequent disclosure by the Walker campaign reveals that Walker, who was only previously known to have one child—and who has frequently complained that many Black men don’t help raise their children—has three other children by three women, and that he is not in regular contact with at least two of them.

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October 3, 2022: The Daily Beast reports that Walker, who says abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, paid for a woman to have an abortion after she became pregnant by him in 2009. (He denies it, but the evidence that he did so is substantial.)

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October 26, 2022: A different woman tells the press that Walker pressured her into having an abortion as well, in 1993. (He denies it.)

Nov. 8, 2022: On election night, Walker and Warnock advance to a runoff when neither receives 50 percent of the vote. Warnock comes closer, winning 49.4 of ballots cast to Walker’s 48.5. Georgia’s incumbent Republican governor, Brian Kemp, wins reelection by seven points, running five points ahead of Walker. (According to Morning Consult, Joe Biden’s approval rating in Georgia in the months before voting was roughly 41 percent.)

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Meanwhile, another Trump-endorsed GOP Senate candidate about whom Mitch McConnell had concerns, Blake Masters, runs behind other Republicans in Arizona and loses his race against Sen. Mark Kelly by five points. Trump-endorsed Pennsylvania candidate Mehmet “Dr. Oz” Oz loses an open seat in Pennsylvania to Democrat John Fetterman.

Nov. 29, 2022: CNN reports that Walker—who is, to be clear, running for Senate in Georgia—told a campaign audience in January 2022 that he lives in Texas. (This does not in and of itself disqualify him from serving.)

Nov. 30, 2022: Georgia’s outgoing Republican lieutenant governor tells CNN that he did not vote for Walker in the runoff.

Dec. 1, 2022: One of Walker’s ex-girlfriends tells the Daily Beast he put his hands on her throat and swung a fist toward her head during a 2005 argument.

Dec. 6, 2022: Walker loses the run-off to Warnock. Democrats net a seat in the Senate. Joe Biden’s approval rating is still eleven points underwater nationally. Mitch McConnell remains minority leader.

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