The Jolt: Herschel Walker says, ‘I’m ready to debate.’
News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
Herschel Walker speaks after his Republican Primary win on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta. Walker would face U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, in November. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)
Since U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock accepted invitations to three debates in late June, there’s been relative crickets from Republican Herschel Walker’s camp. The spate of recent campaign controversies has only fueled more questions about whether he’ll take part.
The former football star sounded like he was still open to the idea on Tuesday in an interview with Shelley Wynter and MalaniKai Massey on WSB radio.
“I feel a debate is coming. A couple of weeks ago, his campaign talked about a debate but I don’t think they’ve contacted my group yet. But I’m ready for a debate. The last time I was on, I told you guys I’m ready for a debate whenever he’s ready,” Walker said.
“What we ought to do, his people get with my people and we pick a place. And I’d love for you guys to be part of it.”
A spokeswoman for the Walker campaign has said the campaign is still evaluating debate invitations.
On Tuesday, Walker also tried to clear the air, so to speak, on his comments about “bad air” circulating from China. He told Wynter was “just really being funny” when he was explaining why he opposes federal efforts to combat pollution.
MORE BAD AIR. Walker’s “bad air” comments have been a frequent refrain on the campaign trail. Tipsters found at least three other instances in recent weeks when Walker mentioned the theory that drew so much ridicule.
In Columbus: “China’s bad air floats over into our good air. And now we’re trying to clean their bad air and of course it just floats over here and now we gotta clean it, so all we’re doing is throwing money at it.”
In St. Simons: “The trillions of dollars that you’re paying for is cleaning up their bad air but now it’s gonna float back over to China because of the Earth’s rotation and until we can get China and all of these other places to invest in it, it isn’t gonna be any good.”
In south Georgia: “We’re gonna clean it up a little better than it’s already cleaned. But our good air, since we don’t control it, is gonna float over to China where they got bad air. Now China’s bad air floats over to us, where we have the good air.”
We have not heard from Walker’s camp what research he’s been referring to, but a 2017 piece from NPR did indeed report, “Smog in Western U.S. starts out as smog in Asia, researchers say.”
But rather than arguing against American clean-air efforts, as Walker did, the research from four U.S.-based climate scientists concluded that without the domestic efforts, extreme heat events in the U.S. would have been more intense and dangerous.
LISTEN UP. We break down the latest in the Warnock-Walker match-up, Stacey Abrams’ most recent adoption of a Brian Kemp-esque economic proposal, and Tuesday’s hearing of the January 6 committee in the midweek edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.
ABRAMS ACCUSED. The state ethics commission dismissed two narrow complaints against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams Tuesday after her lawyer presented it with evidence that no laws had been broken.
But as our colleague James Salzer notes, Abrams might not be out of the ethics woods as we head toward the home stretch of her rematch with Gov. Brian Kemp.
The commission staff has probed bank records to investigate whether Abrams’ campaign in 2018 illegally coordinated its efforts with nonprofits and PACs supporting her first run for governor. Georgia law prohibits independent groups from coordinating their political efforts with candidates.
Salzer reports the more recent focus is the New Georgia Project, the voter registration group that Abrams founded, and an affiliated organization, the New Georgia Project Action Fund.
The groups hired canvassers, sought donations and supported Abrams in mass emails, but neither the organizations nor the campaign disclosed those efforts in filings, a state attorney argued in recent court hearings.
Abrams’ camp has called the ethics commission’s investigation a “fishing expedition,” saying it has cooperated with the probe and provided thousands of pages of documents.
The ethics commission meets quarterly, so typically it has a meeting in late September. That means it could consider new allegations a little more than a month before the November gubernatorial election.
WHITE HOUSE “UNHINGED.” Tuesday’s hearing of the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack focused on the involvement of extremist groups and how violence on Jan. 6 had been planned for some all along.
Witnesses recounted a contentious meeting at the White House with then-President Donald Trump, his allies and several advisers who did not agree with his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. But Trump’s outside advisers floated a plan to seize Dominion Voting Systems machines in Georgia and other states, an idea aides later described it as “unhinged.”
The committee also heard from former spokesman for the Oath Keepers, Jason Van Tatenhove, and Stephen Ayres, who said he went to Washington on Jan. 6 because he felt called by Trump.
Ayres testified that he believed Trump would be marching with supporters and that he left the Capitol only after the president sent a tweet encouraging them to disperse. He said he might not have entered the building if Trump had said something before events turned violent.
Earlier testimony from conservative commentator Katrina Pierson, discussed during the hearing, revealed concerns she laid out to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about potential violence on Jan. 6.
Pierson said her concerns came partly from an earlier “stop the steal” rally in Georgia when conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and conservative activist Ali Alexander entered Georgia’s Capitol.
Two Georgia lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and then-Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, were also cited as part of a group of Republican elected officials who amplified Trump’s false claims of election fraud. Both attended a private meeting at the White House to discuss the strategy to have Vice President Mike Pence reject electoral college votes on Jan. 6, which Pence refused to do.
The committee has alleged that several lawmakers who attended that meeting, including Greene, later requested pardons.
Greetings from the 7th hearing of the @January6thCmte. Opening statements are currently underway. But eventually we will get to testimony on the role extremist groups played in carrying out the riot and what level of interaction those groups had with the White House. pic.twitter.com/A83WGoeyfn
— Tia Mitchell, AJC’s Washington Correspondent (@ajconwashington) July 12, 2022
ON THE HILL. Georgia state Rep. Renitta Shannon, D-Decatur, will testify during a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday on the impact of the Supreme Court decision reversing federal protections for abortion access. Shannon has shared her own abortion story publicly and spoke out against Georgia’s 2019 law to ban abortion access for women at about six weeks of pregnancy.
CAR TROUBLE. Bloombergreports that Rivian will cut up to 5% of its workforce amid a cash crunch for the company. The EV maker announced plans at the state Capitol last year to locate a new factory east of Atlanta.
The Wall Street Journal also notes that Rivian has had to hike the starting price for its first two models and that its stock price has slid 70% since a high earlier this year.
The AJC has reached out to the company for more details and we’ll keep you posted as our economic team learns more. The cuts will reportedly be focused on nonmanufacturing roles.
VETS’ VOTES. The left-leaning VoteVets organization is planning to put $2 million behind a volley of new broadcast, cable, digital and streaming ads that target Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker.
The ad features Paul Martin, a U.S. Army veteran awarded the Purple Heart, pummeling Walker for his role with a program called Patriot Support that Walker has said helps military members struggling with mental health.
“I can’t trust Herschel Walker. He made a fortune and veterans like me paid a price.”
The for-profit program is part of a civil case brought by the Justice Department that alleges the company defrauded taxpayers and took advantage of veterans and service members.
Walker was paid more than $300,000 last year for his role as a spokesman for Patriot Support, but was not accused by authorities of being a part of the tax scheme. He has dismissed the allegations against the program as false.
TODAY IN WASHINGTON:
The U.S. House will begin considering amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that outlines military and defense spending levels.
The House has also scheduled a vote on the Active Shooter Alert Act, which would authorize sending Amber Alert-type messages to local residents if there is a nearby threat.
President Joe Biden is in Tel Aviv, Israel, for the first full day of a multi-day trip across the Middle East.
ATF DIRECTOR. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Steve Dettelbach to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It is the first time in seven years the agency will have a confirmed leader at its helm.
Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock voted to confirm Dettelbach alongside every Democrat present and two Republicans: Maine’s Susan Collins and Ohio’s Rob Portman.
Dettelbach’s confirmation became a priority for the White House as part of its response to recent high-profile mass shootings.
ONE DOWN. This morning, a new statue from the state of Florida honoring educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune will be unveiled at the U.S. Capitol.
Florida commissioned the statue to replace one depicting Edmund Kirby Smith, a Confederate general who was born in Florida.
Of the seven remaining tributes to Confederates in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall State Collection, one belongs to Georgia. The state’s statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, who served as vice president of the Confederacy, remains in the main corridor despite Democrats’ efforts to have it removed.
ATLANTA BLUES. You may have seen Atlanta’s City Hall lit in blue last night. The display was a tribute to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated last week.
The @CityofAtlanta joins the world in mourning the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Tonight, City Hall is lit up in blue to honor his legacy and in solidarity with the people of Japan. pic.twitter.com/y1hVLoecvK