Meet Herschel Walker, the football-player-turned-Trump-acolyte in Georgia

Walker hopes to flip one of Georgia’s two Senate seats back red in November

<p>Herschel Walker, GOP senate candidate in Georgia </p>

Herschel Walker, GOP senate candidate in Georgia

A running back with more than a decade’s experience in the NFL, Herschel Walker isn’t exactly the typical Republican candidate for the US Senate.

But celebrity of any kind is a strength in Donald Trump’s Republican Party, which makes Mr Walker the obvious choice for the former president in the race to nominate a champion in Georgia who can retake one of the state’s two Senate seats from Democrats this year. Joe Biden became the first Democrat to win the state since 1992 in 2020, followed by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock winning runoff elections in January 2021.

Mr Walker, breaking the mold of other former athletes, is fairly active in state politics dating back almost 10 years. He first appeared in a commercial paid for by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in support of a GOP primary candidate in 2014; four years later, he endorsed Brian Kemp as the now-governor battled Stacey Abrams in a close election marred by accusations of interference and voter suppression by the state’s government.

The main factor which determined his knighting by Donald Trump as his pick in the Senate primary, however, is his vocal support for Mr Trump’s conspiracies about the 2020 election. Mr Walker has claimed that Mr Biden actually got tens of millions fewer votes than he really did, and blamed “country-wide election fraud” for Mr Trump’s defeat. His successful football career certainly didn’t hurt, though: before going pro, Mr Walker led the University of Georgia Bulldogs to a 1982 national championship won the Heisman trophy three times over the course of his career.

The NFL veteran met Mr Trump in 1984, when the business mogul was pursuing investment in the USFL, a short-lived competitor to the NFL. That league shuttered in 1986, after just three seasons, with Mr Walker playing for the Trump-owned New Jersey Generals. Afterward he played for the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.

He remains a favourite to win the GOP nomination on Tuesday thanks to his campaign’s ability to coalesce support not only from Mr Trump and his wing of the party but also from establishment figures including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Should he face a general election, however, he could be hard-pressed to keep up with the studious Mr Warnock on issues of policy, where the latter has far greater experience, and Mr Walker also could face criticism for attempting to represent the state after not living there for decades. He also faces an allegation of domestic violence dating back two decades, when his then-girlfriend told police that he threatened to “blow her head off” during an argument, but told Axios last year that he’s “accountable” for his previous violent behavior.

Many younger Americans are more likely to know Mr Walker’s offspring than the candidate himself, however; despite his prolific career in the NFL, it’s his son Christian who has been in the spotlight in recent years with his burgeoning careers as a right-leaning influencer on Instagram and other social media platforms.

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