It’s not an ‘autograph tour.’ Herschel Walker’s GOP opponents rip their rival

Herschel Walker speaks to journalists after filling out his paperwork to qualify to run for the U.S. Senate at the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, Mar. 7, 2022. Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Herschel Walker speaks to journalists after filling out his paperwork to qualify to run for the U.S. Senate at the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, Mar. 7, 2022. Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The gloves are off in the Republican race for U.S. Senate.

Not long ago, Herschel Walker’s rivals were somewhat reluctant to criticize the frontrunner. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was long the only GOP candidate willing to bash Walker over his history of violent behavior, confusing remarks and tightlipped approach to the media.

Now the other top Republican contenders are getting in on the act.

Former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler told us in an interview that Walker was running an “entitlement campaign” based on his celebrity as a former football player.

“He abandoned Georgia, came back just to run for the United States Senate. And he’s doing the Biden basement strategy, expecting to be handed this thing. In a great state like ours, a U.S. Senate race should be difficult,” said Saddler.

Combined ShapeCaption
Senate candidate Latham Saddler addresses a crowd in Nashville, Ga. as his son Bubba wanders the room.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Senate candidate Latham Saddler addresses a crowd in Nashville, Ga. as his son Bubba wanders the room.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Combined ShapeCaption
Senate candidate Latham Saddler addresses a crowd in Nashville, Ga. as his son Bubba wanders the room.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Credit: Greg Bluestein

“It should have to be earned. And that’s what Georgians want and expect. They want leadership. They want people that will show up. I mean, it’s clear he’s not willing to debate any of us. So, my question to the voters out there is how’s that gonna work against Raphael Warnock?”

Likewise for Kelvin King, who has long resisted criticizing Walker but this week penned an op-Ed that he shared with your Insiders. Here’s a snippet:

Herschel Walker talks about working hard and fighting for the interests of Georgians, yet he works behind the scenes to ensure a level of celebrity comfort and elusiveness, separating himself from the questions and engagement that Georgians demand. This is a campaign - not an autograph tour for those who can pay an access fee.

tI am not naive to the fact Herschel Walker is ahead in the polls. The problem is, neither is he. When he officially qualified last week, reporters swarmed to the typically evasive candidate, hungry to finally have an opportunity to ask him questions. The results were, as one might expect, puzzling. Speaking about himself in third person, he gave mostly baffling responses to basic inquiries but what did come across loud and clear was he has zero intention of debating in the primary

We cannot expect a candidate to survive a vicious General Election when they spend the entire primary hiding behind celebrity status, President Trump's endorsement, softball interviews, and “double bookings" that conveniently take place when forums are scheduled.

But the hard truth is, we cannot blame Herschel Walker for running his campaign like a celebrity if we continue to treat him like a celebrity. If Georgia voters are willing to give him an unearned victory, then we are broadcasting to the elites and superstars that they can have our country. So, the question is, ‘Are you willing to settle for selfies and autographs over qualifications and policy stances?' I'm not.

- Kelvin King
Combined ShapeCaption
Kelvin king talks with the press at the State Capitol after qualifying to run for office on the second day of qualifying Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at the Georgia State Capitol. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Kelvin king talks with the press at the State Capitol after qualifying to run for office on the second day of qualifying Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at the Georgia State Capitol.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Kelvin king talks with the press at the State Capitol after qualifying to run for office on the second day of qualifying Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at the Georgia State Capitol. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Walker spokeswoman Mallory Blount said King’s depiction of the former football star’s demands was “100% false.”

“Not a shred of truth. The lies from other candidates running for office are getting more ridiculous as the election gets closer and they’re failing to get any attention unless they mention Herschel’s name,” she said.

And Black, of course, has only sharpened his message. Look no further than the scathing digital ad we first told you about in yesterday’s jolt that outlined the potential lines of attack from Warnock.

Combined ShapeCaption
In the harshest attack yet in the GOP race for U.S. Senate, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black launched a radio ad accusing former football standout Herschel Walker (right) of supporting “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

Credit: AJC File

In the harshest attack yet in the GOP race for U.S. Senate, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black launched a radio ad accusing former football standout Herschel Walker (right) of supporting “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

Credit: AJC File

Combined ShapeCaption
In the harshest attack yet in the GOP race for U.S. Senate, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black launched a radio ad accusing former football standout Herschel Walker (right) of supporting “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

Credit: AJC File

Credit: AJC File

All the while, Walker has tried to remain above the fray, avoiding uttering his rivals’ name, even as some senior Republicans increasingly worry about his matchup against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. With a commanding lead in the polls -- some peg him above 60% -- his campaign feels little threat.

Walker’s aides, however, occasionally swipe back. Blount also responded to the latest Black attack: “The only thing more embarrassing than Gary Black’s obsession with Herschel Walker is Gary’s fundraising and poll numbers.”

***

While Herschel Walker’s comments questioning evolution and reproductive medicine caught national attention this week, he also spoke Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Carrollton where he appeared to falsely suggest that NATO hasn’t been involved in working to deter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Here’s part of his comments:

“What’s going on in Ukraine is terrible. And NATO have to get -- I’m not sure why they’re not getting involved. You know, you let somebody threaten you. Putin is threatening you, if you don’t -- if you get involved. He’s not as powerful as they think he is. He’s not as powerful as they think he is, or he wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing right now.

“So, should we use our strength? I think if I was Biden, which I’m not because I’m younger, I would really pressure NATO to get involved.”

The U.S. and other NATO members are intensely involved in helping Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion. Military analysts estimate NATO allies have sent more than 20,000 sophisticated weapons to Ukraine since the invasion started on Feb. 24, and thousands of NATO troops are stationed in Eastern European countries to deter a broader war.

Insider’s note: This item was ripped and expanded from the jolt