ALTO, Ga. – Republican Senate candidate Gary Black has warned that GOP frontrunner Herschel Walker’s history of violent behavior is “disqualifying.” He’s predicted Walker would lose to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock if he’s the party’s nominee.
But on Tuesday Black escalated his criticism of the former football standout, defying the norms of conventional campaign politics. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he wouldn’t support Walker in the general election if he wins the GOP nod.
“He hasn’t earned my vote,” Black said in an interview at a barbecue that drew hundreds of supporters to Jaemor Farms in North Georgia, one of his final campaign events before Tuesday’s primary.
“Anybody who has put their hands on women like he has and has been unaccountable, has not taken responsibility for his actions – says he wrote a book, but then he won’t come clean on the rest of it – he hasn’t earned my vote.”
Walker’s allies tried to paint the comments as a meaningless rant from a failed candidate who has struggled to gain traction since entering the race.
Far ahead in the polls, Walker has focused his attention almost solely on a general election matchup against Warnock. The ex-NFL star is so confident he’ll win next week’s vote he invited his five GOP rivals to a “unity celebration” with his campaign.
Black’s comments, meanwhile, represent a new level of GOP tension over Walker’s candidacy that could be leveraged by Democrats in a November vote that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.
Even the most bitter political rivals typically say they’ll back the party’s nominee after a heated primary. David Perdue, for instance, has branded Gov. Brian Kemp a traitor to the GOP but still promises to support his reelection in November if he wins the Republican nomination.
But it’s a step that Black, the state’s thrice-elected agriculture commissioner, isn’t willing to take. Throughout his campaign, he’s been by far the loudest Republican voice in Georgia raising concerns about Walker.
The AJC reported that an ex-girlfriend of Walker’s told police in 2012 that when she tried to end what she said was a long romantic relationship with the football star he threatened to “blow her head off” and then kill himself.
CNN uncovered a police report from a Texas woman who had been a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who told authorities in 2002 that Walker had threatened and stalked her.
That followed reports of allegations from Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, who obtained a protective order in 2005 after telling a judge that he had threatened to shoot her in the head.
Black has encouraged more disclosures about Walker’s past by distributing a trove of documents, including police reports and court records involving accusations of violent behavior, to media outlets early in his campaign.
He has also frequently upbraided Walker for his decades-long residency in Texas, his past abstention from GOP primaries, his immigration approach and the “Biden in the basement strategy” to avoid probing questions on his policy stances.
Walker’s campaign has cited his candor about his past, including a 2008 memoir that highlighted his struggle with mental illness. Black has said he needs to reveal more details about alleged incidents that took place after Walker sought treatment.
Other Republicans in the contest, including former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler and Air Force veteran Kelvin King, have also intensified their criticism of Walker, joining Black by leveling attacks about his refusal to participate in debates and forums.
Walker has participated in more public events as the primary draws closer, including plans to speak Wednesday at a Macon rally. He’s unapologetic about his decision to ignore his rivals, saying he wants to deprive them of free publicity.
His campaign on Tuesday issued a rare broadside firing back at Black.
“Gary’s ego continues to get in the way of good judgment, but we’re focused on beating Warnock,” a Walker official said. “It’s a sad ending to a solid career.”
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