The Jolt: Herschel Walker answers domestic violence ad with mental health message

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

For much of the campaign, Herschel Walker’s rivals have tried to use his own words to undercut his credibility. This week a new ad campaign illustrated the challenges of shifting the attacks in a different direction.

The Republican Accountability PAC became one of the first outside groups to put significant money – a six-figure ad buy - behind a TV spot that featured Walker’s ex-wife describing him physically assaulting her and holding a gun to her head.

On Wednesday, the Republican Senate hopeful offered a glimpse of how he’ll respond if another outside group – or U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign – takes a similar strategy.

“My opponents launched a dirty attack ad. They dug up an old video and took it out of context,” Walker said in a response video. “My opponents think they’re hurting me — but I am glad they did this ad. Because it gives me an opportunity to end the stigma around mental health.”

He went on to say that he and his ex-wife are friends and thanked her for helping him during a tough time in his life. Then he invoked his struggle with dissociative identity disorder.

“We need to end the stigma around mental health,” he said, adding: “I would rather listen to a friend talk about his struggles than to go to their funeral.”

Our AJC colleague Shannon McCaffrey has written extensively about Walker’s DID diagnosis and the questions surrounding the doctor Walker worked with in Texas as he was diagnosed.


TRUMP DETENTE. Could Donald Trump be on the verge of making up with Gov. Brian Kemp? We’re not holding our breath, but we have our latest example that the peace negotiations between the two men are progressing.

The Republican governor was asked this week on the Guy Benson Show whether he’d welcome Trump’s endorsement.

“Look, I want everybody’s endorsement going into this November 8th election. That’s what I said after primary,” he said. “It’s time for all Republicans to unite and really all Georgians to unite against Stacey Abrams, who scares a lot of people.”

It came on the heels of this Trump response when he was asked by Fox News over the weekend whether he’d consider letting bygones be bygones to endorse Kemp again: “Well, we’ll be looking at everything.”

Again, we’re not betting on an outright endorsement. Trump put Kemp high on his revenge list after the governor refused his attempts to overturn the election and backed David Perdue’s ill-fated primary challenge.

But Kemp doesn’t need Trump’s blessing. He just needs the former president to lay off the attacks – which is exactly what he’s done since the May primary.


COUNTERPUNCH. Gov. Brian Kemp is set to announce his first major reelection policy proposal at an afternoon press conference.

As we reported Monday, he will unveil a roughly $1 billion tax refund and a separate homeowners rebate, both funded by a record surplus that tops $5 billion, along with more than $2 billion still in the bank.

The plan comes days after Stacey Abrams announced a string of economic policies that included calls to legalize casino gambling and a challenge to pursue a more ambitious long-term vision for Georgia.

Kemp said Wednesday after touting a record year for investment in state jobs projects that it’s Abrams and President Joe Biden who are to blame for the economic uncertainty.

Credit: Stephen B. Morton / AJC

Credit: Stephen B. Morton / AJC

“If it wasn’t for what we were doing to help Georgians fight through that right now by suspending the gas tax, given more money back to them, cutting taxes in the budget — that’s helping people fight 40-year-high inflation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Abrams put out a digital ad that highlighted Kemp’s support for the state’s newly enacted anti-abortion law and the swirl of legal uncertainties surrounding the new restrictions. It ends by inviting voters to press Kemp with their own questions about the law.


AROUND TOWN. With the U.S. House and Senate (mostly) in recess and November’s elections getting closer every day, candidates and members of Congress will be out and about across the state today.

  • Gov. Brian Kemp will roll out economic initiatives his team says will help Georgians fight through 40-year-high inflation “caused by the Biden-Abrams agenda;”
  • The Democratic Party of Georgia will host Georgia OB-GYNs to discuss the state’s new abortion restrictions and how the law is affecting their ability to treat women experiencing a miscarriage;
  • Herschel Walker meets with Black business owners for a roundtable in College Park;
  • U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams will be in Atlanta with Mitch Landrieu, the White House Infrastructure Coordinator, to highlight the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and its programs to make internet access more affordable for Georgia families.
  • Stacey Abrams won’t be out on the trail Thursday, since she tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday. Her staff says she’ll hold meetings over Zoom and the phone “for the next few days.”


ONE MORE THING. The August Congressional recess will take a pause Friday, when House members are scheduled to return to Washington to take up the Senate-passed Inflation Reduction Act. That’s the rebranded Build Back Better bill that now focuses on climate, tax, and health care measures.

But wait - it’s not called the “Inflation Reduction Act” any more.

That’s right. Our buddy Jamie Dupree reports in his ‘Regular Order’ newsletter today that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. made a point of order on Sunday that the name of the bill violated the Senate rules.

And the Senate Parliamentarian upheld that objection.

What’s the official name of the rebranded Build Back Better bill now?

“An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to title II of S. Con. Res. 14.”

That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.


SILENT TREATMENT. Attorneys for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham argued in court Wednesday that Graham’s role as chairman of the U.S. Sen. Judiciary Committee shields him from appearing in front of the Fulton County special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump.

Graham called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger twice in the aftermath of Trump’s Georgia loss to talk about the state’s absentee ballot count.

But speaking to reporters in South Carolina Wednesday, the senator said the subpoena out for him is just another example of Democrats “weaponizing” the judicial system against Donald Trump and his allies.

The AJC’s Tamar Hallerman reports the judge who heard arguments Wednesday will make a decision on Friday or Monday-- and may not see things entirely Graham’s way.

Judge Leigh Martin May of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia did not say on Wednesday how she would rule on Graham's subpoena, though she sounded skeptical about considering every aspect of the calls legislative. She urged the Republican's attorneys to address in a new filing where protected legislative matters end and political, unprotected ones begin.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


TEACHER TESTS. With the first days of school now underway in most Georgia school districts, schools are now subject to the new Georgia law directing how to “divisive concepts” are taught to students.

The AJC earlier reported that Fulton County approved a process to address complaints from parents about how issues are being taught in schools.

The Moultrie Observer writes that the Colquitt County Board of Education voted to adopt a series of new policies and procedures, all based on new guidance from the Georgia School Board Association.

And Adam Van Brimmer writes in the Savannah Morning News that the guidance to Savannah teachers has either been nothing, or in one school’s case, a mandate not to use the phrase “white privilege” during a lesson.


GUIDESTONES STAY GONE. The Elbert County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night not to rebuild the Georgia Guidestones, the Athens Banner-Herald reports.

For the time being, the remains of the massive monument have been given to the Elbert Granite Association and the county has begun the process of returning the five acres where it sat to the original owners.

But a private plan to rebuild the Guidestones could unfold down the road, the vice president of the association, Chris Kubas said.

“It got a lot of tourism, and all of a sudden that has dried up — it’s gone.”

It also got a lot of controversy, especially as far-right activists, including a GOP gubernatorial candidate, promised to bring down the “satanic” tablets.


LIVIN’ WITH RIVIAN. Local residents of the rural communities surrounding the massive Rivian electric vehicle plant now planned for Rutledge, Ga., may or may not feel better after reading about the trip the AJC’s Zach Hansen took to the town where Rivian’s first plant is already operating.

Reporting from Normal, Ill., Hansen writes about the influx of jobs, money, and yes, Californians, to the midwestern town.

Bringing the EV maker to Georgia was a top priority for Gov. Brian Kemp. But even at more than 20 times the size of the Rutledge/ Social Circle community, Hansen reports the Illinois town still struggled to meet the massive new demands on housing an infrastructure for the thousands of new Rivian workers who flooded in.

The factory employs nearly 6,000 workers, and local leaders estimate that more than 3,000 ancillary jobs were created to support the rush of new residents. The influx has pushed the region's housing market to its limit.

“We were not ready," Hoban said. “We literally ran out of homes."

According to a recent report by the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development council, the county is projected to have the largest population increase in Illinois outside of the Chicago metro area. The analysis found the region needs more than 4,300 new housing units to meet the demand.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


ENDORSEMENT NEWS. The Georgia Chamber endorsed Republican Burt Jones’ bid for lieutenant governor, giving him the support of the influential business group.

The state senator’s wealthy family is active in the Georgia business community. Jones’ father founded Jones Petroleum, which also owns a portfolio of gas stations, grocery stores, and shopping centers across the Southeast.


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