The Jolt: ‘Never Herschel’ Republicans struggling to break through

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Outgoing U.S. Senate, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said he voted for Herschel Walker in the U.S. Senate runoff earlier this month. Walker lost the election to U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. (File photos)

Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

Outgoing U.S. Senate, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said he voted for Herschel Walker in the U.S. Senate runoff earlier this month. Walker lost the election to U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. (File photos)

Time is running out for the Never Herschel Walker group of Senate Republican contenders.

Qualifying isn’t for weeks and the primary is set for May, but a string of recent developments don’t bode well for Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Air Force veteran and business owner Kelvin King and former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler.

A Quinnipiac University poll showed Walker dominating his Senate Republican rivals with roughly 80% of the vote. And an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll of hypothetical November matchups put Walker in a stronger position against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock than Black.

The fundraising figures out Monday only add to their challenges. Walker raised a huge sum-- roughly $5.4 million in the final three months of the year-- and ended with about that sum in the bank. His rivals lagged well behind.

Black, the best known of the trio, raised $440,000 over the three-month span and ends the year with less than $1 million in the bank. Saddler fared better, raising $600,000, and finishing with $1.7 million in his warchest. He also told WDUN’s Martha Zoller Monday that he’s outpaced the others with $3 million raised overall.

King trailed them both. He raised $230,000 during the quarter and spent $350,000. He wound up with about $330,000 in cash on hand – including $300,000 that King loaned his campaign..

So far, each of the three has remained committed to the race, traveling the state, and doing interviews. On Tuesday, Black launched a “Herschelisms” web series mocking the former football player’s meandering remarks and outright gaffes.

“Herschel has been hiding from questions and we understand why: whenever he gives an answer it’s like a car wreck and a dumpster fire happening simultaneously,” said Black spokesman Dan McLagan.

“We are trying to understand him but, frankly, we have no idea what the heck he’s talking about most of the time.”

We won’t be surprised if the GOP pressure campaign to unify behind Walker heats up, even as a few Republicans look for a backup plan, just in case the untested Walker campaign goes sideways.


UNDER THE GOLD DOME, Legislative Day 9:

  • 8:00 a.m.: Committee meetings begin;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The House gavels in;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The Senate convenes.


We’re keeping an eye on: The Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds a hearing on SB 319, the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act, at 4:00.


Members of the Atlanta City Council are also watching the progress of the Constitutional Carry bill, known by Democrats as “Permitless Carry”, just as the new Andre Dickens administration looks for ways to reduce the dangerous gun violence in the city.

In a fascinating exchange captured by our City Hall team, new council member Liliana Bakhtiari wanted to know if the city and council could do more to oppose the Republican-sponsored bill.


“With everything that's going on, I'd be terrified of the idea of someone being able to carry without needing a permit," Bakhtiari said.

Kenyatta Mitchell, Atlanta's new Intergovernmental Affairs director, told them to remember “everything else that we are fighting for this year" as they discuss their response to gun legislation, a sign of the tricky balance between maintaining a good relationship with the state and pushing back on proposals city officials disagree with.

“I want to make sure that we're in good graces with folks across the street," Mitchell said of Georgia's General Assembly. The subtext, of course, is the Buckhead cityhood movement.

You can read about that and other City of Atlanta highlights from J.D. Capelouto and Wilborn Nobles in this week’s Inside City Hall.


Former senator and current Brian Kemp primary rival David Perdue kicks off a state-wide campaign tour this morning for his “Stop Stacey, Save Georgia” gubernatorial bid.

Over the next five days, Perdue will head out from Alpharetta, swing north toward Rome, loop through Gainesville and east central Georgia before a Middle Georgia swing toward Vidalia through Bibb County.

In a notable change of pace from the bitter end of Perdue’s 2020 Senate campaign, the events this week are advertised in advance and open press.

He’s also up with his first campaign ad today starring, you guessed it, Donald Trump.


U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath outraised fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in the first quarter since McBath announced she’d challenge Bourdeaux in a May primary. McBath ended the year with an edge over Bourdeaux’s cash on hand for the 7th District campaign.

The two congresswomen filed campaign reports late Monday. Between October and December, McBath raised about $746,000 and finished the year with $2.5 million in the bank.

Bourdeaux raised nearly $432,000 during the same quarter. She has $2 million in cash on hand.

Protect our Future, a super PAC backing McBath, also released an internal poll that showed her with an early advantage over Bourdeaux among Democrats in the Gwinnett-based district. You can check it out here.


Several historically Black colleges and universities were on the receiving end of bomb threats Monday, including Georgia’s Albany State University, the AJC’s Eric Stirgus reports. Vice President Kamala Harris’ alma mater, Howard University, also received a threat.

Similar calls came in to Atlanta’s Spelman College a few weeks ago. All raised concerns that the institutions are being targeted because of their Black student populations.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, whose district includes ASU, was among the elected officials condemning the threats.

“Teachers and students should never have to live under such a threat and those who would engage in these terrorist tactics should face the full force of the law and justice,” the Albany Democrat said in a statement. “HBCUs are proud institutions, deeply rooted in the fabric of our country’s history. They are resilient and will continue their sacred mission of educating and preparing the next generation of leaders.”


U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock announced Monday that $18 million in federal grant and loan money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act is headed for some of Georgia’s tiniest towns and most rural communities.

The cities of Pavo and Fort Gaines, along with Ben Hill and Irwin counties, will use the much-needed funding for emergency response and local services, according to the Albany Herald.


POSTED: Fulton Superior Court Chief Judge Christopher S. Brasher sent his resignation letter Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday, after 16 years on the bench, the AJC’s Ben Brasch reports.

Brasher told the AJC, “I’m ready to write the next chapter.”


As the House’s January 6th committee continues its work in Washington, two Georgians subpoenaed by the committee are using their notoriety to raise money and walk the red carpet.

Amy Kremer and her daughter, Kylie Kremer, founded Women for America First and helped organize the public rally in Washington that preceded the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Now the elder Kremer has sent out a fundraising appeal for the group. “Congress has me and my daughter in their crosshairs, and they’ve sent us a 20-page subpoena. We’ll have to go before Congress any day now. And I need help from patriots like you right away.”

Kremer writes that she needs money to sue Rolling Stone magazine, which has written extensively about the duo.

They’ll also be in Texas this week as “VIP Red Carpet Guests” for a screening of a movie with fellow Trump supporters’ version of events of the Capitol attack. Tickets go for $30 to $3,000.

Other “VIPs” listed include the family of Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by Capitol Police as she tried to breach the House floor, and Couy Griffin, a man charged with breaching the Capitol, but billed in materials for the screening as a “J6 political prisoner.”


U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson is hosting a telephone town hall on Thursday. His special guest will be U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, one of only two Black Republicans in the House of Representatives today.

The town hall will begin at 5 p.m. and will include a legislative update from Ferguson plus time to answer questions from the audience. Anyone interested in attending can register here or call Ferguson’s Washington office for details.


Newly minted state Senate candidate Jason Esteves has raised more than $120,000 since his campaign launched a month ago and he ends the quarter with $110,000 in the bank.

The veteran Atlanta School Board president is running for the Atlanta-based Senate seat vacated by Jen Jordan with the support of AFSCME Local 1644 and Georgia FPSE unions.


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