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Trump Ally Herschel Walker Is Running For U.S. Senate In Georgia

Then-President Donald Trump elbow bumps Herschel Walker during a 2020 campaign rally in Atlanta. Walker filed paperwork Tuesday to run for U.S. Senate in the key swing state of Georgia.
John Bazemore
Then-President Donald Trump elbow bumps Herschel Walker during a 2020 campaign rally in Atlanta. Walker filed paperwork Tuesday to run for U.S. Senate in the key swing state of Georgia.

Herschel Walker, a former University of Georgia football standout and a friend and ally of former President Donald Trump's, is running for U.S. Senate in Georgia, setting up a high-profile Republican primary next year in the crucial battleground state.

Walker enters a growing field seeking to unseat Democrat Raphael Warnock, Georgia's first Black senator, with strong encouragement from Trump, who has been fixated on Georgia politics since narrowly losing the state's 16 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and a Wrightsville, Ga., native, has long lived in Texas after a professional football career that ended in Dallas, but he changed his voter registration last week to an Atlanta house owned by his wife, Julie Blanchard. Blanchard is under investigation by the Georgia secretary of state's office over potential illegal voting after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported she voted in Georgia despite living in Texas.

Walker has also repeated false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election despite elections officials finding no evidence of widespread fraud that affected the outcome.

It's unclear when Walker will make a formal Senate announcement. The campaign paperwork filed Tuesday ends months of speculation about his political plans, including a prediction in June from Trump that the former football star would soon suit up for the Republican primary.

"He told me he's going to, and I think he will," Trump said on the conservative talk radio Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show. "He's a great guy. He's a patriot. And he's a very loyal person, he's a very strong person. They love him in Georgia, I'll tell you."

Some national Republicans have been wary of Walker's candidacy, though. The first-time candidate comes with potential baggage that could harm his chances in both the primary and general elections, including his Texas residency.

Walker has been open about his past struggles with mental health and dissociative identity disorder, including alleged violent outbursts against his ex-wife, Cindy Grossman. A recent Associated Press report also chronicled more details of the divorce, including previously unreported threats against her, overstated claims about his business dealings and erratic behavior around business partners.

But a recent poll by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling had Walker with high favorability ratings and name recognition among Georgia GOP voters.

There are currently three other candidates running for the Republican nomination to challenge Warnock: Gary Black, Georgia's agriculture commissioner; Kelvin King, a Black military veteran and construction company owner who helped Trump launch his "Black Voices" coalition; and Latham Saddler, a Navy veteran and banking executive.

Warnock took office in January after a historic special election runoff that saw Democrats take narrow control of the Senate, and the seat is a top target for Republicans heading into the 2022 midterms.

The Senate is split 50-50 among Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Harris the tiebreaking vote for Democrats.

Copyright 2021 Georgia Public Broadcasting

Stephen Fowler
Stephen Fowler is a political reporter with NPR's Washington Desk and will be covering the 2024 election based in the South. Before joining NPR, he spent more than seven years at Georgia Public Broadcasting as its political reporter and host of the Battleground: Ballot Box podcast, which covered voting rights and legal fallout from the 2020 presidential election, the evolution of the Republican Party and other changes driving Georgia's growing prominence in American politics. His reporting has appeared everywhere from the Center for Public Integrity and the Columbia Journalism Review to the PBS NewsHour and ProPublica.