The Jolt: Walker attacks Warnock on race in Senate contest

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, and Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker. (File photos)

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, left, and Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker. (File photos)

In a U.S. Senate contest between two Black men, it was almost inevitable that race would become a major campaign issue.

But Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker has recently taken the discussion in an unexpected direction.

In rallies with voters and messages on the air, Walker has directly told his supporters that they are not racist— and that Democrats are using race to divide Georgians against each other.

“Senator Warnock believes America is a bad country full of racist people; I believe we’re a great country full of generous people,” Walker said in the 30-second spot.

That doesn’t reflect the unifying message that Warnock is actually using at his rallies and events. At a stop in Rome recently, the senator said, “We have to resist the demagogues, resist the division, and embrace that American covenant of, ‘e pluribus unum.’ Out of many, one.”

But the Walker ad does echo a longstanding theme in his campaign. At a Friday event with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Walker opened by accusing Warnock of demanding that America “apologize for its whiteness.”

“All of you are my family. I don’t care what color you are. All of you are my family,” he said, adding later: “It don’t matter about your color. It matters the content of your character.”

Haley, a potential 2024 presidential contender who is Indian-American, backed Walker up.

“What we’re talking about is how do you lift up everybody not just some people, but everybody,” Haley said.

Walker’s message is aimed primarily at white voters, who make up the huge majority of the GOP electorate and who may be weary of discussions of race that have dominated the news.

Whether the campaign tactic will be effective remains to be seen – though as Walker’s allies have noted, it’s a campaign argument that a white candidate would struggle to make.


Nikki Haley smiles at Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker during a campaign stop in Norcross on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

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Credit: Ben Gray

DELVING DEEPER. While campaigning with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Friday, Herschel Walker was asked whether he thinks federal lawmakers need to address “institutional racism.”

The Republican noted his rise to college football stardom at the University of Georgia just 13 years after the athletics program was desegregated.

“And now the majority of the players on the University of Georgia are Black, the majority of the players in the NFL are Black, the majority of them make millions of dollars. So we’ve gotten better.

“Do we need to get better? Yes … but right now we’re talking about separation. That’s what I’m talking about. We don’t separate. We bring together. We have to have unity.”


Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is facing challenges with voters of color — particularly attracting more Black men to the polls. She is pictured speaking at the Democratic Party of Georgia’s State Convention in Columbus on Saturday, August 27, 2022. (Steve Schaefer/

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

BLACK MEN. Democrat Stacey Abrams is facing her own challenges with voters of color — particularly attracting more Black men to the polls.

On Friday, Abrams addressed several hundred supporters packed into The HBCU, the Historical Black University of Creatives. She was joined at the downtown Atlanta venue by radio host Charlamagne Tha God, rapper 21 Savage and attorney Francys Johnson, the AJC’s Anjali Huynh reports.

“If Black men turn out in their numbers and support me at the level they are capable of, I can win this election,” Abrams said. “Because we know that Black men sometimes punch below their weight class in elections.”

She said she doesn’t plan to change her approach to Black men, but rather find new ways to connect with them.

“This is a vital part of our electorate,” she told reporters before the event. “I’m not going to leave any community untouched and unconnected with.”

At a campaign stop in Athens over the weekend, Gov. Brian Kemp was asked about his relative strength among Black voters in recent polls.

He said that in his 2018 campaign, he was “defined by a candidate that had twice as much money as I did” and glowing attention from the national media.

“I never could really fight through that. It’s a different story now because I have a great record that I think resonates with all Georgians,” he said.

An AJC poll from July found that Abrams was underperforming with Black voters. About 80% of the Black electorate supported the Democrat, well below the 90% or greater support that Democrats typically need to win statewide elections.


WARM UP ACT. State Sen. Jen Jordan, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, can add a new item to her CV: Opening act for comedian Amy Schumer.

Jordan addressed Schumer’s audience Sunday at the Coca-Cola Roxy — a venue in Jordan’s state Senate district — in between comedians opening the show for the comedian. Schumer is the cousin of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and has advocated in the past for gun control and access to abortion.

Jordan’s campaign manager Meg Scribner said they contacted Schumer’s team and asked if the candidate could address the crowd.

“We’re always looking for creative ways to engage voters and explain the importance of the attorney general campaign. Over a thousand women attended that show in Sen. Jordan’s district, and we thought they should know that (Republican Attorney General) Chris Carr thinks they should be jailed for making their own health care decisions,” Scribner told our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu.

Although the law specifies punishment for doctors and abortion providers, Carr and his office have declined to say whether women can be jailed for seeking an abortion or inducing her own abortion under the state’s recently implemented abortion laws, saying his office doesn’t interpret the law for the public.

Georgia recently enacted the 2019 abortion law that bans the procedure in most cases after a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, which is typically around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.


WHOOPS. Democratic operatives took note this weekend when high-ranking Herschel Walker aide Mallory Blount posted, and quickly deleted, a tweet mocking U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s own post about World Suicide Prevention Day.

“You know Dems are nervous about the midterms when THIS is their message 59 days from Election Day,” she posted. “You have control of the White House, Senate and House. Stop blaming other people for your abysmal approval rating.”

Blount said she meant to affix a similar message to a post by President Joe Biden, which she did after she deleted her initial tweet.



  • President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the new infrastructure law from Boston.
  • The U.S. Senate is back this evening and has more confirmations teed up.
  • The U.S. House returns from its summer break on Tuesday.


U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, a Georgia Democrat, teamed up with Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, on a bill to help veterans with health care concerns. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /

ADVOCATING FOR PATIENTS. A measure championed by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock to allow veterans to file and track complaints with the Department of Veteran Affairs about their health care services is now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk to become law.

Warnock and Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, teamed up on the bill, which will require the VA to create an online complaint tracking system for veterans. The Senate approved the legislation by unanimous consent last week. It was approved in the House in May with just one dissenting vote, a Democrat from Illinois.

Currently, only VA officials can file and track complaints electronically. The new law is designed to improve transparency for patients and accountability for the department. The VA’s health care system has faced complaints about poor service and hard-to-navigate systems for years.


REMEMBERING 9/11. Sunday marked 21 years since terrorists used hijacked planes to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A fourth airliner was also likely headed to Washington before its passengers downed it in a field in Pennsylvania.

Members of Georgia’s congressional delegation released statements to mark the solemn anniversary.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican who was serving as the mayor of Pooler in 2001, recognized the six Georgians who were killed during the attacks.

  • Claude Michael Gann, 41, a sales executive from Roswell;
  • Maynard S. Spence Jr., 42, a construction safety executive from Douglasville;
  • Harshad Sham Thatte, 30, a consultant from Norcross;
  • Major Stephen V. Long, 39, a U.S. Army soldier from Georgia;
  • Major Wallace Cole Hogan Jr., 39, a U.S. Army soldier from Macon, and
  • Adam White, a 26-year-old from Buckhead.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, wrote, “We will never forget the 2,977 people whose lives were lost in the heinous attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Countless more lives were lost and forever changed in the days and years following 9/11.”


Prince Charles draws applause from Gov. Busbee and Lt. Gov. Miller at the State Capitol, Oct. 22, 1977. (AJC Staff Photo/Minla Linn)

Credit: AJC

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Credit: AJC

PRINCE OF ATHENS. As the world remembers the life of Queen Elizabeth II, the AJC’s Brian O’Shea remembered the time King Charles III became the first member of the modern British royal family to visit Georgia.

And like many leaders before and since, the then-Prince Charles headed to the two hubs of real power in the state — the Georgia General Assembly and a UGA football game. More on the royal visit between the hedges:

AJC columnist Mark Bradley, who attended that game, too, reported that (UGA Coach Vince) Dooley introduced the prince to Kentucky Coach Fran Curci who, according to Bradley “asked his highness, ‘Want some gum?'"

The game was a bad homecoming. Kentucky beat UGA 33-0.

Sports writer Tom Tucker wrote in the AJC the next day that Charles arrived by car from the West end of the stadium and “strolled 100 yards between the hedges to the East end zone," which he also correctly noted “was more than the Georgia football team was able to do all day against Kentucky."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


POWER PLAYER. And speaking of Georgia power players, the AJC’s Sarah Spencer caught up with Gov. Brian Kemp after his tailgate with the Young Republicans in Athens this weekend to ask him the questions everybody wants answers to. Behold the governor’s picks for:

  • Favorite tailgate food: Hot dogs, hamburgers, and bacon-wrapped quail (fancy);
  • Favorite Georgia game of all time: Last year’s National Championship, naturally; and
  • Favorite current player: Despite being advised by First Lady Marty Kemp not to answer this tough one, Kemp named Ladd McConkey. “Pullin’ for the underdog,” the governor explained.


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