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Thursday, February 2, 2023
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Ga. Runoff Gets Heated

'Herschel is a competitor. He’s very comfortable with the mano a mano...'

(Headline USA) The Georgia runoff has become defined by negative ads.

Some advertisements feature candidates’ ex-wives; others feature cries of “liar”; still others tell stories of a squalid apartment building; even more ads question the independence of candidates.

The extended Senate campaign in Georgia between the Democratic incumbent, Raphael Warnock, and his Republican challenger, football legend Herschel Walker, has grown increasingly bitter as their Dec. 6 runoff nears. With Democrats already assured a Senate majority, it’s a striking contrast from two years ago, when the state’s twin runoffs were mostly about which party would control the chamber in Washington.

“Herschel Walker ain’t serious,” Warnock told supporters recently in central Georgia, saying that Walker “majors in lying” and fumbles the basics of public policy. “But the election is very serious. Don’t get those two things confused.”

Walker casts Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, as a “hypocrite” and servile to President Joe Biden. Underscoring the insult, Walker calls the incumbent “Scooby-Doo,” complete with an impression of the cartoon hound’s gibberish.

The broadsides reflect the candidates’ furious push in the four weeks between the Nov. 8 general election and runoff to persuade their core supporters to cast another ballot. For Walker, it also means drawing more independents and moderates to his campaign after he allegedly underperformed a fellow Republican on the ticket, Gov. Brian Kemp, by 200,000 votes.

“My opponent lies about everything,” Warnock said in a recent campaign stop.

Walker, alternately, has relished the jousting since he won the GOP nomination in the spring.

“Herschel is a competitor. He’s very comfortable with the mano a mano,” said Scott Paradise, Walker’s campaign manager, noting the candidate’s athletic prowess as a football running back, kickboxer and Olympic bobsledder.

Indeed, Walker takes his attacks right to Warnock’s strengths as the pastor of the famous church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. Walker has criticized Warnock over an Atlanta apartment building, owned by a foundation of Warnock’s church, where residents have complained to The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative media outlet, of eviction notices and poor conditions.

“What he’s doing in this apartment building at Columbia Towers is not right,” Walker said recently at a suburban Atlanta campaign stop. “You shouldn’t put Jesus’ name on what you’re doing to people, and don’t put Martin Luther King name on it. … You’re not Jesus, and you’re not Dr. King.”

Asked whether he’s reconsidered his church’s stewardship of Columbia Towers, Warnock sidestepped: “I’ve already answered the question. I’m proud of what my church does to feed and house the hungry and the homeless every single week.”

Walker also accuses Warnock of “getting rich” as a senator, a nod to the pastor’s $7,500-a-month housing allowance from the church.

On at least one occasion during the runoff, Walker has suggested Warnock is a negligent father.

Both candidates’ former wives also loom in the campaign, though the two men avoid the topic themselves, leaving the discussion of their marriages mostly to paid advertising. In one ad, Warnock’s former wife tells Atlanta police that he ran over her foot.

Warnock’s aides say that the personalized arguments help convince core Democrats that they should not sit out the runoff, while also swaying the potentially decisive middle of the electorate in the senator’s favor.

From Walker’s camp, Paradise insisted that Republicans’ best argument remains Warnock’s alignment with Democrats on economic policy. Still, he acknowledges the campaign’s tone has darkened.

“We’re certainly going to continue to aggressively prosecute the case against Warnock,” he said.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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