The Jolt: Will Herschel Walker snub an election-eve GOP unity rally?

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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

State Republicans are buzzing about plans to organize a Monday night pre-midterm election extravaganza with the entire GOP ticket, but there might be a major no-show.

It’s not clear whether Herschel Walker, GOP Senate nominee would attend. One Walker confidant told us not to expect the former football player to participate.

Normally, a potential scheduling conflict wouldn’t be newsworthy. But Gov. Brian Kemp and Walker have yet to campaign with each other at a major public rally.

Credit: John Bazemore/AP

Credit: John Bazemore/AP

Kemp said Thursday he and Walker could be on the trail together before Election Day. “I’m certainly open to that,” Kemp said. “I know he’s got his own schedule. But look, I’m working hard to get the whole ticket elected.”

But the governor might have good reason not to campaign with Walker. Kemp has a solid lead over Democrat Stacey Abrams and might not be eager to get caught in the wake of Walker’s tumultuous campaign.

Walker, on the other hand, is in a neck-and-neck race with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. Republicans are hoping he can draft off of Kemp’s higher favorability ratings to an outright win Tuesday night.

Why is Walker likely a no-show? Walker’s camp already had a long-planned event in Kennesaw with high-profile supporters and was in the process of inviting a large crowd of supporters to attend, said one of his advisers, who indicated it was too late to change plans.

It’s not just the Republicans who haven’t been stumping together lately. On the Democratic side, Abrams and Warnock held a joint rally in August amid pressure to band together on the trail, but the two have hardly campaigned together since. Warnock was asked Thursday whether he’d reunite with Abrams in the final days of the race.

“I plan to stay focused on the people of Georgia,” Warnock said. “I’ve already been campaigning with folks throughout the ticket, but I’m going to remain focused on my job — and that’s representing the people of Georgia.”

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LISTEN UP: In our Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast is ready in your feeds this morning. We look at the four major candidates running in Georgia’s midterms and how vastly different the campaign strategies are from each other.

Listen and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

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Credit: Bob Andres/AP

Credit: Bob Andres/AP

BANK. The U.S. Senate race between Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP nominee Herschel Walker is on track to be the most expensive in the country, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Shannon McCaffrey and Tia Mitchell report.

Warnock has raised $78 million more than Walker, but the race itself is essentially tied, according to most polls. And although Warnock pledged not to accept PAC money at the beginning of the campaign, PAC money has indeed flowed into his coffers. More on that:

Warnock also has collected checks from political committees tied to labor unions and industry groups, such as the agriculture co-op representing beet sugar farmers, the American Crystal Sugar Co., and the National Association of Realtors' political committee.

He also has received donations from lobbying firms who represent corporations. Holland & Knight donated $5,000 to the campaign in August; its lengthy client list includes United HealthGroup, a major health care and insurance company, and InterContinental Hotels Group, according to the OpenSecrets database.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Walker has also accepted PAC donations.

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS

Credit: Miguel Martinez/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS

TRAIL MIX. Statewide candidates were back on the trail Thursday, with just six days left until Election Day. Among the highlights from across the state:

  • U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock lambasted Herschel Walker over the latest abortion allegations him from a woman who said she felt threatened by him. “I can’t ignore that as a pastor, I can’t ignore it as a father and I can’t ignore it as a brother.”
  • Herschel Walker hit Warnock and President Joe Biden over their student debt repayment plan, alleging students are using their financial freedom to buy drugs and alcohol, which he said is like “a weekend with Hunter Biden.”
  • Stacey Abrams, in criticizing Gov. Brian Kemp’s opposition to full Medicaid expansion, told her crowds that the Republican governors campaigning with him have embraced the policy in their states.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp launched a two-day blitz with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with Christie characterizing Abrams as a creation of the liberal elite.

Be sure to check AJC.com each afternoon through Election Day for our “On the Georgia Trail” feature, where we’ll recap the news and notes from the day on the campaign trail in Georgia.

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GONE, GIRL. While Republicans fanned out across Georgia to lockup statewide wins, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was on the trail, too — in Iowa.

The 14th District congresswoman was in Sioux City to pump up the crowd ahead of a rally from former President Donald Trump.

In her speech, Greene called Trump the GOP’s “one true leader” and promised, “Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine. Our country comes first.”

Later, Trump said, “I will very, very, very probably” run for president.

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Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP

Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP

TODAY ON THE TRAIL:

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will participate in a virtual event supporting U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and two other Democrats on the ballot in Iowa and Texas.
  • Gov. Chris Christie will join Gov. Brian Kemp for stops in Jefferson, Winder, Watkinsville, Madison and Monroe.
  • Former Congresswoman and former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, along with former GOP Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, will campaign with Herschel Walker in Newnan and LaGrange.
  • It’s not technically a campaign event, but U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams will discuss voting rights with the NAACP at an event in Atlanta.
  • Also not a campaign event, but U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath will join state Sen. Michelle Au, advocacy group Protect Our Care, and federal officials in Johns Creek to highlight health care and climate change legislation passed by Democrats this year.
  • On Saturday, look for Herschel Walker in Athens, where his campaign is holding a tailgate and rally before the UGA-Tennessee football game.

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Credit: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

MORE CELEBS FOR ABRAMS. Rapper 2 Chainz and Beyonce’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, will be the featured guests in a get-out-the-vote rally for Stacey Abrams on Saturday.

The “Pop Out to the Polls” event is hosted by Abrams’ leadership committee One Georgia, Care in Action political action committee, labor unions and other left-leaning groups.

The rally starts at 3:00 at The Eastern in Atlanta.

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Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

ELECTION THREATS. Members of the U.S. House, led by Georgia’s Nikema Williams, have sent a letter to the U.S. attorney general asking for an update on investigations into threats on election officials.

The letter sent Thursday to Attorney General Merrick Garland asks for an update on the Election Threats Task Force, which was created in July 2021. It notes that election workers have expressed new concerns ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

“Our election workers are instrumental to free and fair elections, and threats to our election workers undermine the very process of our democracy,” the letter says.

Thirty-one lawmakers, including Georgia Reps. David Scott, Hank Johnson and Carolyn Bourdeaux, signed the letter. It asks for a report on the number of complaints the task force has received and the process for investigating them.

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Credit: Chip Somodevilla via The New York Times

Credit: Chip Somodevilla via The New York Times

PROTECTING IP. The Council for Innovation Promotion, which describes itself as an advocacy group for intellectual property rights, is running ads in Georgia to highlight U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson’s work on its issues.

The group’s multistate ad buy includes three congressional Republicans and two Democrats, with only Johnson in Georgia. The group is spending nearly half-a-million dollars on the digital promotion.

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Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

PATA-GONE-IA. If you’re a Patagonia shopper, don’t head to the store on Tuesday. The democracy-friendly retailer is closing all of its U.S. retail locations on Election Day, including in Georgia, to give employees a paid day off to vote.

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Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

DOOLEY REMEMBERED. As Gov. Brian Kemp got started at his campaign stop in Marietta Thursday, he apologized for wearing a suit and tie. He explained he had just come from the private funeral for legendary UGA football coach Vince Dooley, who died last week at 90.

“What a man of faith. What a great Georgian. What a damn good dawg,” said Kemp, who had a lifelong friendship with the Dooley family.

In an executive order Thursday, the governor also ordered that American and Georgian flags be flown at half-staff Saturday.

That honor follows Kemp’s successful efforts in 2019 to rename the football field at Sanford Stadium after Dooley.

So the Bulldogs will be playing the University of Tennessee between the hedges on Dooley Field tomorrow, beneath flags lowered in Coach Dooley’s honor — after a moment of silence to remember the coaching great.

A win over the Volunteers might be the best honor of all.

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AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.