Former NFL running back Herschel Walker is the GOP's US Senate in Georgia, going up against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, and it seems Walker will do anything to win, including outright voter bribes at the pump in Atlanta's Black community.
A long line of cars formed at a Chevron gas station south of downtown Atlanta on Saturday as word spread that a political action committee was handing out $25 vouchers. Now the pro-Herschel Walker group’s giveaway is fueling a different sort of backlash.
The initiative by 34N22 was designed to highlight rising gas prices, a top issue for Republicans hoping to capitalize on inflation and economic uncertainty to unseat U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Motorists in the heavily Democratic area were handed vouchers totaling $4,000 along with flyers promoting Walker, a former football player who is now the Republican nominee. Outside the gas station, volunteers held signs declaring “Warnock isn’t working.”
Democrats and voting rights groups quickly criticized the stunt, questioning how offering fuel vouchers to support a political candidate could be allowed in a state that bans groups from distributing refreshments to waiting voters in line to cast ballots.
“This is illegal,” declared LaTosha Brown, a cofounder of Black Voters Matter.
“Meanwhile, also in Georgia, giving out water to those waiting to cast a ballot is considered illegal voter influence,” said state Sen. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat.
The PAC referred to a memo from attorney Kory Langhofer that asserted the program was “entirely lawful and permissible” because the vouchers were given without any condition, such as a requirement to vote for Walker or appear in an advertisement.
“Warnock’s campaign is upset about 34N22′s community outreach program, not because of any earnest legal concerns, but because they don’t want the public to know Warnock has contributed to record gas prices and the pain Georgians are feeling at the pump,” wrote Langhofer, whose experience includes serving as a lawyer for Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
Aides to Warnock, who backed a federal gas tax suspension earlier this year to lower prices, didn’t comment on the initiative.
But several influential Democrats argued that the PAC’s move could have violated Georgia law that states: “Any person who gives or receives, offers to give or receive, or participates in the giving or receiving of money or gifts for the purpose of registering as a voter, voting, or voting for a particular candidate in any primary or election shall be guilty of a felony.”
Among them was state Rep. Bee Nguyen, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state who recalled how the office of Georgia’s top election official sent an investigator to a metro Atlanta precinct in 2020 “with firearm on hip and demanded all food and water to be removed.”
“Giving away gas vouchers and Herschel Walker flyers at the same time isn’t legal. Are they gonna do something about it?”
Of course they aren't. Laws like this only get enforced against Democrats in a state like Georgia. There's enough gray area here to say it's legal, so it will be legal when Walker does it, and it will be legal when other Republicans repeat the tactic in other states.
And keep in mind, Walker's camp wouldn't be stooping to this level, this early, if Warnock wasn't already whooping Walker's ass in the race.
Now that Herschel Walker is officially the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has started to mine the treasure trove of opposition research out there on the former NFL star.
A new ad from Warnock's campaign features Walker talking to right-wing pundit Glenn Beck about Covid-19. Here's the text of what Walker tells Beck:
"Right now, you know what, I'm gonna say something I probably shouldn't. Do you know right now, I have something that can bring you into a building that would clean you from Covid as you walk through this dry mist. As you walk through the door, it will kill any Covid on your body. When you leave, it will kill the virus as you leave. This here product -- they don't want to talk about that. They don't want to hear about that."
Near the end of the commercial, this text appears onscreen: "Is Herschel Walker really ready to represent Georgia?"
The clip comes from an August 2020 appearance Walker made on Beck's podcast. It's not clear what product Walker is referring to, as it could be dangerous for a person to walk through a disinfecting spray or mist that kills the coronavirus.
Walker's comments evoke the pitch made by then-President Donald Trump in April 2020, when he suggested that ingesting disinfectants or sunlight might help patients battling Covid-19.
The new Warnock ad serves as a stark reminder of how incredibly untested Walker is -- and what a massive gamble the former football star represents for Republicans in what is widely expected to be one of the closest and most expensive Senate races in the country this fall.
Walker has never before run for elected office. He hadn't lived in Georgia for years before launching his bid for Senate last year.
Walker is a time bomb, frankly. Even CNN's Chris Cillizza has figured it out.
CNN reported last year that several women have accused Walker of making threats against them. In 2002, one Texas woman told police that Walker had threatened and stalked her. Over the years, two other women -- Walker's ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend -- have also accused him of making threats, telling authorities Walker claimed he would shoot them in the head.
(At the time of CNN's report, a spokeswoman for Walker declined to respond to the allegations or police report, citing his past struggles with mental health and saying that he was unfairly being targeted as a Republican Senate candidate. Walker's spokeswoman also denied the claims made by the candidate's ex-girlfriend.)
More recently, Walker has run into trouble when asked for his views on issues, most notably guns. Here's what Walker told Fox when asked about the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and what, if anything, he believed should be done about it on the legislative front:
"Cain killed Abel and that's a problem that we have. What we need to do is look into how we can stop those things. You know, you talked about doing a disinformation -- what about getting a department that can look at young men that's looking at women, that's looking at their social media. What about doing that? Looking into things like that and we can stop that that way. But yet they want to just continue to talk about taking away your constitutional rights. And I think there's more things we need to look into. This has been happening for years and the way we stop it is putting money into the mental health field, by putting money into other departments rather than departments that want to take away your rights."
Walker wasn't any clearer on the issue when speaking recently with CNN's Manu Raju. Asked whether he supported new gun laws in the wake of Uvalde, Walker said: "What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff."
Is it possible that Walker's celebrity status -- and the likely Republican lean of the national playing field -- means that voters in Georgia won't much care about his Covid claims or his inability to offer any thoughts on guns in American society? Sure. But as Warnock's latest ad makes clear, nominating Walker was a major risk for Republicans in a critical state to their majority math.
Walker needs some help, and is absolutely unfit for office, but it's not like that stopped voters before in the case of Trump himself...