Herschel Walker Announces Run for U.S Senate in Georgia
Former football star says he can’t ‘sit on the sidelines anymore’
Former football star Herschel Walker has officially declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Georgia.
Walker will be jumping into a Republican primary race to challenge Democratic freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock in the 2022 midterm elections.
The race is a crucial contest that could ultimately decide which party controls the majority in the chamber.
"Our country is at a crossroads, and I can’t sit on the sidelines anymore," Walker announced in a statement.
"America is the greatest country in the world, but too many politicians in Washington are afraid to say that," Walker charged.
"In the United States Senate, I will stand up for conservative values and get our country moving in the right direction."
"It is time to have leaders in Washington who will fight to protect the American Dream for everybody," Walker added.
The announcement by the sporting legend comes one day after he filed paperwork setting up his campaign in the Peach State.
It also comes after months of support and encouragement to run for the Senate by President Donald Trump, his longtime friend - and amid concerns from some Republicans over the first-time candidate's ability to win a key seat for the GOP.
Walker spotlighted his American story in his statement, noting that "where else could a poor kid from a small town in Georgia become valedictorian of his high school, earn the Heisman Trophy, play professional football, represent the United States in the Olympics, and become CEO of multiple companies?
"I have lived the American Dream, but I am concerned it is slipping away for many people."
Walker becomes the most prominent candidate to enter the race for the GOP Senate nomination in the Peach State.
Among the others running are the state's Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, who declared his candidacy in June, and two military veterans who are not as well-known, Latham Saddler and Kelvin King, who launched campaigns earlier this year.
Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who narrowly lost to Warnock in one of the two Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia, has not closed the door to a potential campaign.
Loeffler told Fox News in June that "I have not ruled anything out."
Former Sen. David Perdue, who narrowly lost to now-Sen. Jon Ossoff in the state’s other runoff election in January, earlier this year said he was passing on making a 2022 bid.
Despite the increasingly crowded field, Walker enters the race as the clear frontrunner, thanks to his name recognition and the support from Trump, who seven months removed from the White House remains very popular and influential with Republican voters as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in GOP politics and repeatedly flirts another presidential run in 2024.
Walker, whose relationship with the former president goes back to his days playing for the Trump-owned New Jersey Generals USFL football team in the 1980s, was a major Trump supporter and surrogate in last year’s election.
"Wouldn’t it be great if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia?" Trump wrote in a statement in March.
"He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the NFL.
"He is also a GREAT person. Run, Herschel, Run!"
A poll released by Trump’s political action committee last week indicated that Walker would enter the Senate Republican primary far ahead of his rivals.
I am just a kid from Wrightsville, Georgia, who has lived the American Dream. Now, I’m running as a Republican for the United States Senate to keep that dream alive for everybody. To join the fight, visit https://t.co/J4UbhIPvuU pic.twitter.com/e1ZX5PHdVY— Herschel Walker (@HerschelWalker) August 25, 2021
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which remains neutral in Senate primaries with no incumbents in the race, welcomed Walker to the primary battle.
"Herschel Walker is a great American and a great Republican," NRSC communications director Chris Hartline noted.
He added that Walker "will join a strong group of Republican candidates and be a formidable candidate.
"Georgia Republicans will have a spirited primary.
"We’re confident that whoever wins the primary will be well-positioned to beat Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders’ favorite Democrat, Raphael Warnock."
But support for Walker is far from uniform across the party, with some Republicans for months expressing reservations over his looming candidacy.
Walker, as a first-time candidate, is untested under fire on the campaign trail and has not made it clear where he stands on many key issues.
And he comes with plenty of political baggage that could give his opponents ammunition.
He’s also for years openly discussed his struggles with a mental illness known as dissociative identity disorder.
Walker spotlighted his mental health challenges in a 2008 book, writing that he was able to overcome his multiple personalities with therapy and his faith in Christianity.
Though he has Trump’s backing, Republicans close to longtime Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell are privately expressing concerns about whether Walker is ready for the rigors of a high-profile Senate campaign.
Sources tell Fox News that some Republicans in Georgia are also raising concerns.
"He will need to show that he is a conservative," former Rep. Doug Collins, a Trump ally, said this summer on his radio program.
"I have never heard Herschel Walker’s position on pro-life. I haven’t," said Collins, who came in third behind Warnock and Loeffler in a large field of candidates in November’s special election and who briefly mulled a 2022 run before ruling it out.
"I’ve never heard his position on gun control.
"I’ve never heard his position on a lot of these issues that are conservative issues."
And some other Georgia Republicans are worried about a possible political train wreck as Walker faces incoming fire in the weeks and months ahead.
A Peach State-based Republican strategist who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely told Fox News last month that "we don’t know what a Herschel Walker candidacy looks like.
"What type of a candidate is he going to be?
"How is he going to handle being thrown into the fire?
"Is he going to be quick on his feet?"
And pointing to Walker’s well-publicized battle with mental illness, the strategist said, "He either deals with those issues well and grows, or he struggles with explaining some of the issues that were in his book and he decides this isn’t for him."
As the GOP aims to win back the Senate majority they lost in January when the Democrats narrowly swept Georgia’s twin Senate runoff elections, they’re playing plenty of defense, defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs, including five open seats – with two of them in the crucial battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
But they also see opportunities to flip blue seats red in four states, including Georgia.
And they view Warnock as one of the most vulnerable Democrats running for reelection in 2022.
Warnock defeated Loeffler, who was appointed by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, by a razor-thin margin on Jan. 5, to serve the final two years of the term of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned in 2019 due to health reasons.
But defeating Warnock won’t be easy, as Georgia’s first black senator has set fundraising records since taking office.