The Daily Wire recently sat down with Georgia Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Herschel Walker to talk about his campaign, his critics, and developing thick skin.
In 1981, any sports fan with a color television, three working channels, and a pulse knew the name Herschel Walker.
The University of Georgia’s celebrated tailback was setting new college football records not only for the Bulldogs, but also for the NCAA as a whole – rushing and all-purpose yards records that still stand to this day.
That year Walker’s Bulldogs met Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl (there was no college football playoff system in those days) winning the game 17 to 10. It was Georgia’s first number one ranking since 1942, and the following year Walker would win The Heisman Trophy.
“Everyone knows the glory, but they don’t know the whole story,” said Walker.
The whole story in this case includes Walker playing multiple downs in the Sugar Bowl with a dislocated shoulder. When his team doctor wanted to take him to the locker room, Walker refused, asking the doctor to yank on his arm until his shoulder popped back into place.
Walker has a reputation for rising to the challenge when the heat is on.
The Heat Is On
As Georgia’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Walker has had to gear up for a different kind of battle. A recent New York Times article criticized Walker for not talking about all of his children on the campaign trail.
Walker said the Times was “using that as a weapon, I reckon to get me off my game, but it’s not gonna get me off my game. And it’s sad that they try to use my kids.”
Walker was married to his first wife, Cindy DeAngelis Grossman, for 19 years, from 1983 to 2002, and they have one son together.
“One of my sons chose to be in this profession, he chose to be out there,” said Walker. “But I knew this going in. No matter how hard they come at you, you gotta keep moving forward.”
Walker is the father of three other children – two sons and one daughter. There’s an unwritten rule in political life – the candidate is fair game, but the kids are off limits.
“Anyone who is running in politics knows it’s not about the person anymore, it’s about the people you represent. So it doesn’t matter what they say and do to you, it matters what you’re doing for the people,” said Walker.
Since Walker’s nomination victory in late May, Walker and his opponent Raphael Warnock (D-GA) are locked in a virtual tie for the senate seat.
What’s So Great About Georgia?
Speaking of the people he represents, when asked what he loves about the state of Georgia, Walker is quick to reply, “The people. Georgia is filled with good people who care about each other.”
At a time when his political opponents’ comments on the Peach State are notoriously negative, Walker remains bullish on Georgia.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams recently decried her home state as “one of the worst states.”
Warnock has echoed his party’s claims of voter suppression in Georgia. More famously, perhaps, were Abrams’ recent comments, “I am tired of hearing about how we’re the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live,” she said.
“That’s one reason I decided to run for office,” said Walker “I know Georgia is a good place.”
“Look at myself, that’s where I came from. And I’m black. That’s another thing,” said Walker “I grew up in, I think, one of the greatest states in the United States of America. Right now, from what people are saying, I can still say it’s one of the best states, and I am going to fight to continue to prove that.”
One area Abrams cited as a low point for Georgia was mental health, a topic Walker is personally familiar with. “I’ve traveled for years talking to soldiers about mental health issues,” said Walker.
In fact, in 2009, the Heisman Trophy winner released a book describing his battle with dissociative identity disorder titled Breaking Free, using it as a springboard to travel to military bases, speaking to members about the real struggle.
A Vacated Senate Seat
If it feels like the Georgia senate race has lasted for years, it’s because it has. And in battleground states like Georgia, an open seat is even more prized.
So when long-time Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) stepped down from the Senate in 2019, after a long battle with Parkinson’s, all eyes were on the coveted vacant seat. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA) appointed Kelly Loeffler to fill the vacancy in the short term, until a special election could be held.
Less than a year later, a special general election for U.S. Senate Georgia was held on November 3, 2020. Loeffler officially lost to Democrat candidate and former pastor of storied Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
Because both candidates failed to achieve 50% of the vote, they met again for a special general runoff election on January 5, 2021, where Warnock was declared the winner.
On Race Relations
Now that Georgia has two black candidates vying for the open senate seat in 2022, Walker is eager to point out the progress Georgia has made on racial issues.
“We’ve come so far,” said Walker. “Ten years before I got to the University of Georgia the first black players played at University of Georgia. Today, I will bet you, probably the majority of the players at University of Georgia are African American.”
Walker continued, “So we’ve come so far since 1971. Do we have a ways to go? We do,” said Walker. “But are we getting there? Yes we are.”
Candidate Walker is one of the more well known Trump-backed candidates heading into the 2022 midterm elections. Much like the former president, Walker is high on America and American values. “I feel the people that should be elected to office should first love America…and then they need to love the Constitution,” said Walker.
This is not the first time, however, Walker has been affiliated with Trump. Trump became owner of the New Jersey Generals, a football team in the nascent USFL, in 1984, the year after the team offered Walker a three-year contract reportedly worth up to $5 million. Walker took the deal, becoming one of the first major athletes to spurn offers from the NFL. Trump later renegotiated a four-year contract with Walker worth millions and ‘drafted’ Walker again two decades later as a contestant on NBC’s ‘The Apprentice.’
Over the years, Walker has continued to build his social capital among fans, particularly through his athletic prowess. In 1992 he competed in the Winter Olympics on the U.S. bobsled team and in 2010 he entered the MMA octagon with StrikeForce at the age of 47 – and went undefeated.
Walker’s political prowess, however, remains untested.
Just because Walker is a nationally recognized athlete doesn’t make him a shoe-in for public office. Is social capital enough? Political success for NFL veterans it’s a mixed bag.
NFL All-Pro wide receiver Steve Largent enjoyed a successful career as a congressional representative from the state of Washington. Legendary Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Allen Page served for 22 years on the Minnesota Supreme Court. In 2006, however, Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl X MVP Lynn Swann lost his race for Governor in Pennsylvania to Democratic incumbent Ed Rendell. Walker’s inherent popularity alone may not be enough.
But Walker isn’t concerned, because he knows what pays off every time – hard work.
“You have to be disciplined. Because within politics things are changing all the time,” said Walker. “People are coming at you from different ways. You’ve got to have thick skin.”
According to several recent polls, Walker and Warnock are currently tied in a dead heat.
The 2020 election results in Georgia, where Joe Biden narrowly defeated Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes, proved Georgia remains a hot battleground state for American politics.
Georgia’s On A Roll
Earlier this year, on January 10, 2022, the Georgia Bulldogs defeated Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide in the college football playoff national championship game 33 to 18. It was the first time the Bulldogs won an NCAA football title since Walker’s team won in 1981.
The big win was not lost on Walker. When asked what he loves about the state of Georgia, he can’t help but talk about his alma mater’s return to the top.
“The University of Georgia won a national championship. Then the Atlanta Braves won The World Series, so I don’t know what else you could ask for,” said Walker. He then smiled and said, “Except for Herschel to win the Senate.”
The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.