With a runoff extending Georgia’s U.S. Senate campaign by four weeks, it can be easy to forget that the eventual winner of the contest will have a job to do after this: a six-year term with all the weighty policy decisions that come with it.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has served for two years, giving a window into how he approaches the job. His campaign also responded to a series of questions posed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on how the Democrat plans to respond to issues that the Senate is expected to tackle in the coming months, ranging from the debt limit to agriculture policy.
But it is much tougher to pin down where Republican challenger Herschel Walker stands. On the campaign trail, he engages in the culture wars that fire up conservative voters but don’t generally reflect the highest-profile issues standing before the Senate.
Walker has attacked Warnock’s record, often by tying him to President Joe Biden and his lagging approval numbers, but without creating a contrast with how he would govern.
“All I’ve been hearing him talk is how he was going to go to Washington and represent us,” Walker said of Warnock at a recent rally. “But he went to Washington and represented Joe Biden. He likes to raise our taxes and spend our money. Can you believe that?”
Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State University, said it may not matter to Walker’s conservative base whether they know where he stands on issues. He will be a reliable vote in the Senate for the Republican Party, and that’s the priority.
But the lack of details on where Walker stands on prevailing issues could be troublesome for more moderate voters who backed Warnock in the general election but also supported Gov. Brian Kemp, splitting their ticket.
“Is it enough for them that Kemp went and campaigned with him finally, or do they need more?” Steigerwalt said. “And so this is a place where it might harm him because he’s not willing to give them that ‘more’ that they need to be convinced that he can do the job.”
Walker has granted interviews mainly to conservative outlets that do not push him beyond his talking points, meanwhile it has been several weeks since he answered questions from the general media. And his campaign has never granted a one-on-one interview with a reporter from the AJC.
Walker’s campaign did not respond to recent attempts to reach him by phone, text and email regarding the same policy questions that Warnock answered.
The lack of answers from Walker’s campaign feeds into a key theme of Warnock’s: that his opponent is unprepared, unqualified and uninterested in learning the issues.
“Herschel Walker has no vision for our state or for our country,” Warnock said during a rally earlier this month. “Think about it, we’ve been running now for a little while and he has yet to tell us what he actually wants to do. Think about that. He’s running for Senate, and he has not even told us what he wants to do.”
The AJC posted five policy questions to each of the candidates, including one on whether they agreed with the Senate’s recent advancing of legislation to create federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. Warnock paused from campaigning to travel to Washington last week to participate in the procedural vote and said he supports the bill’s passage.
“I believe every human being has inherent dignity, and that Congress should guarantee the right for people to marry whoever they love,” he said in a statement. "
Walker, who himself is in an interracial marriage, would not say where he stands on the measure and has dodged questions about gay marriage throughout the campaign. His stump speech includes frequent attacks on transgender people, especially transgender girls who hope to compete in sports against other girls.
Walker also did not respond to questions about funding for the war in Ukraine, disaster relief for states hit by recent hurricanes, raising the debt limit and reauthorization of the federal farm bill.
Warnock’s most expansive answer came in response to the question about the farm bill, a sweeping piece of legislation scheduled to be updated as part of a five-year cycle. He is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management and Trade.
Asked what provisions need to be eliminated or overhauled in the legislation, he mentioned expanding opportunities for Georgia companies to export their goods overseas, expanding access to credit and technical resources for new and underserved farmers, strengthening the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development program, and boosting research and extension program funding at Georgia universities.
Warnock also expressed a willingness to increase the debt ceiling so the government can continue meeting its financial obligations, and he said states such as Florida and South Carolina should be allocated money to rebuild communities damaged by Hurricane Ian.
On whether he would support sending additional dollars to Ukraine to support its defense against an invasion from Russia, Warnock was less committal. His response was that the U.S. should work with its allies and military leaders “to understand what resources our allies need to effectively counter Putin’s aggression.”