The Jolt: Republicans running against Herschel warn: ‘He can’t win.’

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

The Republicans running against Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate are crisscrossing the state this week, looking for every vote they can get and making a similar argument: Walker can’t win in a November general election against Democrat Raphael Warnock.

That message hasn’t resonated yet in the contest. Polls show Walker with a massive lead, despite skipping debates and largely avoiding questions about past allegations of domestic violence.

That’s frustrating to Kelvin King, an Air Force veteran and businessman who’s had more than 350 campaign stops and visited all of Georgia’s 159 counties.

“If we put forward someone with a lot of flaws who doesn’t know the issues or can’t articulate them well, we are going to lose,” King told voters in Johns Creek Wednesday.

At a meeting of the Young Republicans of Atlanta at the Bold Monk Brewing Company Thursday night, former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler said Warnock “would mop the floor with Herschel Walker.”

“If you can’t show up and get in front of voters as a Republican candidate then how will you handle the onslaught that is coming from Democrats?” Saddler asked.

In Hiawassee, former state representative Josh Clark warned, “it’s not the time to roll the dice.”

“Herschel, as much as I love him, he can’t win,” Clark said.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black took it a step further saying he won’t support Walker if he wins the nomination.

“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,” Black said.

The feedback from voters was mixed.

Kaaryn Walker (no relation), who helped organize King’s appearance in Johns Creek, said she found Walker’s campaign so far troubling.

“If you don’t want to do the small things, how can you handle the big things?”

But Jay Maxa, of Atlanta, praised Walker as he sipped a beer waiting for Saddler to speak.

“He says exactly what he thinks, and I like that,” he said.

Was he interested in what Saddler had to say?

“Yeah. But I’m voting for Herschel,” he said.


One of Gary Black’s last stands was a cookout/rally at Jaemor Farms in Alto that attracted hundreds.

But for some, Black wasn’t the main draw – it was Myron Mixon, the celebrity chef serving as a judge for the smoked pork and brisket who also happens to be the mayor of Unadilla, Ga..


After a day off the trail Thursday, David Perdue was back out with a beefed up schedule, including meet-and-greets on Covington, Carrollton and Woodstock.

We caught up with him at the Covington Municipal Airport, where about a dozen supporters stood behind him for a press Q&A.

Perdue said Georgia voters “feel like they’ve been sold out” and that he is happy to be “an alternative to the incumbent governor.”

Asked about former vice president Mike Pence heading to Georgia to stump for Brian Kemp, Perdue said he respects Pence, but, “This is incumbency circling the wagons to protect an incumbent governor.”

More: “It’s an also an anti-Trump move on Mike Pence’s part frankly, and I think it’s a misplaced effort here in Georgia. He doesn’t know Georgia. I know Georgia. I’m very proud to have Donald Trump’s endorsement, but it’s much bigger than all of this. This is about people.”


Later today, look for Sarah Palin in Savannah to stump for David Perdue for governor.

Gov. Brian Kemp will simultaneously unveil a major manufacturing facility about 45 minutes away in Bryan County.

Perdue also has three stops on a fly-around tour, including in Macon, Columbus and Augusta, and finishes the night in Plainville, with “Bikers for Trump.”


If you cannot get enough of Georgia politics, be sure to subscribe to the Politically Georgia podcast.

Today’s edition looks at candidates’ closing arguments and looks ahead to Election Night Tuesday. Listen below or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


Herschel Walker doesn’t seem to mind that his best-known Senate GOP rival won’t support him in the November election.

Asked at a campaign stop his thoughts on the insult by Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Walker shrugged it off.

“I’m going to win the Republican side. He knows it. He’s upset about it. The thing is, I told him when I got into this race, I got into it to win.”


While Gov. Brian Kemp is trying to turn his decision to reopen Georgia’s economy early in the pandemic into a central plank in his reelection platform. State Democrats aren’t about to cede that territory.

The Democratic Party of Georgia released a new TV ad slamming Kemp’s economic policies during the pandemic along with his support for a rollback for firearms restrictions.

The ad, called “Gambler,” ends thusly: “Every time Kemp gambles for votes, Georgians lose.”


Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk is the latest House Republican to be asked by the Committee investigating Jan. 6 to answer questions about his activities leading up to the deadly Capitol riot.

The committee announced Thursday that it sent a letter to Loudermilk, a Cassville Republican, asking him to voluntarily sit for an interview next week.

“Based on our review of evidence in the Select Committee’s possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021,” the letter states.

Loudermilk and Rep. Rodney Davis, the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, released a joint statement Thursday describing the tour in question as innocent and overblown by the committee.

“A constituent family with young children meeting with their Member of Congress in the House Office Buildings is not a suspicious group or ‘reconnaissance tour,’ " they wrote.

We also heard from Antonio Daza, the sole Democrat challenging Loudermilk in his safe Republican district. Daza said he will “fully support” the investigation.


NPR reported this week that 14 states had significant miscounts in the 2020 Census. Georgia wasn’t one of them — for good reason.

From the story:

Allison Plyer, a former chair of the bureau’s scientific advisory committee, says that Alabama and Georgia not appearing on the list of significantly miscounted southern states could be seen as a telling sign of the effectiveness of census promotion efforts in those states.

“A lot of the southern states were hit with disasters, hurricanes while door-to-door work was going on,” says Plyer, who is the chief demographer at the nonprofit The Data Center in New Orleans. “But the one thing that states have control over is their own get-out-the-count efforts.”


In a crowded race, you can often tell who is the perceived front-runner by the number of political attacks lobbed in his or her direction.

If that is the case in the GOP primary in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, the driver’s seat belongs to political newcomer Jeremy Hunt.

Hunt’s opponents, particularly former Trump administration official Wayne Johnson, have accused him of being a carpet-bagger to the southwest Georgia district propped up by party activists far from Georgia.

And someone anonymously created a website that marks Hunt as a “Never Trumper.” (There aren’t any disclosures on the website, meaning it likely runs afoul of federal campaign finance laws.)

Trump has not endorsed any of the six Republicans in the primary. The other candidates include former Trump administration official Wayne Johnson, attorney Chris West, and party activist Vivian Childs.

None of the GOP candidates have gone all-in for Trump, likely aware that it would be tough to win a general election with that message since a slight majority of voters in the district are Democrats.

Hunt has the highest-profile endorsements among the candidates, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Ambassador Nikki Haley.


U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux appears to be taking advantage of the House’s COVID-era proxy voting rules to have her votes tallied in Washington while she stays in Georgia.

Our review of documents on the House Clerk’s website shows that Bourdeaux used a proxy to cast votes on her behalf for the past two weeks. The House is now on a two-week recess.

As of Tuesday, Bourdeaux had voted by proxy a total of 82 times out of 207 recorded votes this calendar year. The only member of Georgia’s delegation who used those freedoms more often was U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, who proxy voted 129 times, or 62% of all votes.

Scott’s office said he is usually present in Washington, where he chairs the powerful Agriculture Committee, attending numerous committee meetings. But they didn’t respond to our follow up questions about why, if he is at the Capitol, he casts votes from a distance.

Bourdeaux’s campaign folks told us she was using proxy voting to free up her time to remain in Georgia to meet with constituents.

Other House members from Georgia have used proxy voting far less frequently. And five of the eight Republicans haven’t used it at all this year: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Austin Scott, Rick Allen, Andrew Clyde and Jody Hice.


The U.S. Senate on Thursday signed off on legislation that gives families in the federal WIC program flexibility to purchase different infant formula brands as an effort to address the national shortage.

The legislation now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

Meanwhile the House voted 217-207 to give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to investigate energy companies accused of engaging in price gouging as gas prices skyrocketed this year.

Every Republican, including all eight GOP members of Georgia’s delegation, voted “no” alongside four Democrats. None of the four was from Georgia.


Today in Washington:

  • Both the House and the Senate are out. Senators return Tuesday but the House doesn’t have votes scheduled until June 7.
  • President Joe Biden is in Seoul for the first leg of a trip to Asia.


In endorsement news:

  • Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens issued one of his first major endorsements, backing Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen’s campaign for secretary of state. He also announced his support for Chandra Farley for Public Service Commission, District 3 seat.
  • Gun rights group GA2A, formerly, is backing Tyler Harper for state Agriculture Commissioner;
  • Stacey Abrams, former Ambassador Andrew Young and Sen. Raphael Warnock have all endorsed Robert Pitts’ re-election campaign for Fulton County Commission chairman.


One sad note: Mya Speller Cullins, the mother of the young man fatally shot by police at a Buckhead restaurant Wednesday, is also a Democratic candidate for House District 117.

Speller Cullins is a mental health professional who was motivated to enter the race to improve mental health services in Georgia.

As the AJC reported, her son, Nygil, had been diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia. Although his parents called 911 earlier Wednesday seeking help as their son went into mental health crisis, responders came hours later, after their son had already left for Buckhead, where he was later killed.


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