Herschel Walker launches N. Georgia swing with Marjorie Taylor Greene

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Republican ramps up attacks on Warnock

ROME — If Herschel Walker wins a seat in the U.S. Senate, voters in North Georgia will play a critical role in putting him there.

The mountainous region north of the Atlanta suburbs is arguably the most conservative part of the state, and low turnout there helped sink Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in last year’s U.S. Senate runoffs.

So it isn’t surprising that Walker — who polls show is locked in a tight race with Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock — is spending three days campaigning there to rev up turnout as the race heads into its final two weeks.

At a kickoff in Rome on Monday, Walker was joined by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a polarizing political figure but a favorite of the pro-Donald Trump crowd Walker needs in his corner.

Greene had cast doubt on the 2020 election results, but on Monday she implored supporters to turn out.

“Flood the polls,” Greene told a sun-filled room packed with supporters. “Do we sit on the sidelines because we might be a little bit disappointed about the way things went last time? No. You don’t sit out the fight. You get out there and you vote.”

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

When it was his turn to speak, Walker leaned into the GOP base, talking up his opposition to trans athletes and critical race theory while blaming Democrats for crime and inflation.

Walker also ramped up his attacks on Warnock. Republicans had once cast Warnock as nice guy whose voting record was bad for Georgia. But the gloves were off Monday.

“He’s not just a liar, he’s a cheat. He’s not just a cheat, I say he’s a Marxist,” Walker said. “I’m running against a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Walker peppered his free-wheeling speech with religious references, to applause from the enthusiastic crowd.

“It is time for a warrior to step in, and God prepared me to be that warrior,” Walker said. “My heavenly father has given so much to me and now I have to give back, and the way I give back is to get him out of office.”

Eulene Dupree of Rome said Walker’s appearance with Greene solidified her support for the former football star. “I love Margie,” she said. “We need Herschel and we need Margie.”

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Gene Lamneck said he found both Walker and Greene similar because they are genuine.

“They are patriots, and they believe in the rights of the Constitution for people to govern themselves,” Lamneck said.

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said North Georgia, in particular the northwest part of the state, turned Republican before other parts of the state and helped usher in GOP control of Georgia in 2002.

Now the whole northern swath of the state, comprising the Appalachian Mountains and its foothills, is a GOP stronghold with the largest concentration of Republican voters outside of the cities.

But as Trump railed against the election results in 2020, suggesting the outcome in Georgia was rigged, turnout dropped among party faithful for the U.S. Senate runoff in January 2021. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Warnock rode a surge of Democratic support to flip the two seats as well as control of the U.S. Senate.

“You saw the biggest drop-off in the state up there in Marjorie Taylor Greene country,” Bullock said.

Walker will make stops in Ellijay and Dawsonville on Tuesday before visiting Cleveland and Clayton on Wednesday. On Thursday, he heads to the northern Atlanta exurbs and then travels to South Georgia on Friday.