Controversial Trump-backed Senate candidate Herschel Walker reports monster fundraising haul

Right-wing candidate benefits from former president’s endorsement despite assorted reputational issues and bizarre statements

Andrew Naughtie
Wednesday 26 January 2022 17:41
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Herschel Walker promotes anti-Covid “mist”

One of the Republican Party’s most controversial top-tier Senate candidates has reported spectacular fundraising returns, further raising his profile even as some worry he could hurt the party’s chances of retaking the upper chamber.

Herschel Walker, who is challenging freshman Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, pulled in some $5.4m in donations over the last quarter of 2021, a sum that vaults him to the very top ranking of Senate fundraisers this cycle.

A former NFL player, Mr Walker was endorsed by Donald Trump last October, and since then has attracted the support of many other top Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and other would-be colleagues on Capitol Hill.

However, Mr Walker’s campaign has been dogged by unedifying stories about him. After being heavily criticised for an alleged history of violent behaviour, he admitted to abusing his ex-wife, saying he had since sought therapy to deal with his personality. “Just like I broke my leg,” he told Axios last year, “I put the cast on. It healed.”

Nonetheless, in a sign of how seriously the stories of partner violence were taken, GOP Georgia State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black – one of Mr Walker’s primary opponents – said the issue should disqualify him from the race, advising that he drop out and instead “help other people that have the same problems”.

Mr Walker has also skirted other controversies, including claims that he exaggerated his financial success and misrepresented his educational record. In one incident, he had to cancel a Texas fundraiser because one of the organisers had a mocked-up swastika made up of vaccination syringes displayed on her social media profile.

His own remarks about the Covid-19 pandemic have been erratic at times; in a bizarre interview with far-right ex-Fox News host Glenn Beck, he claimed to have “something that can bring you into a building that would clean you from Covid as you walk through this dry mist. As you walk through the door, it will kill any Covid on your body. EPA-, FDA-approved”.

The Georgia race is set to be one of the most closely watched and well-funded of this year’s midterms, as the Republicans seek to win a majority in the upper chamber of Congress. They are widely expected to win back the House of Representatives, but the Senate map obliges them to fight tough races in states Joe Biden won in 2020.

The party has taken heart from Mr Biden’s sinking approval ratings and Senate Democrats’ failure to pass the president’s full agenda in the face of intransigent Republican opposition. However, the risk remains that by choosing as their candidates hardcore right-wingers backed by Donald Trump, the party could alienate the swing voters whose disillusionment with Mr Biden they are now depending on.

And worryingly for Mr Walker, his opponent, Mr Warnock, has $23m at his disposal for the campaign.

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