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Herschel Walker adds star power to US Senate race

The former UGA star intrigues the GOP in Georgia.

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Former football star Herschel Walker surfaced Wednesday with a video announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, stressing his small-town roots as a native of Wrightsville, GA. 

Walker wants to take on Democrat Raphael Warnock, who won the seat this year and will run for re-election next year.  Walker would have to win the GOP nomination first. Three Republicans have previously announced, including state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

Walker's candidacy gives the race a jolt of star power, and "certainly" makes him the frontrunner overnight, said GOP strategist Leo Smith.  

"He enters this thing now as his to lose," Smith said.

However, Smith isn’t on the Herschel Walker political bandwagon yet. 

"I love Herschel Walker," enthused Jama Wright, a Republican voter speaking in downtown Woodstock.  "Because he’s a good football player and he went to UGA!"

RELATED: Can Herschel Walker run for Georgia office while living in Texas?

Walker has sustained his football popularity for decades.  And Smith said that can gin up Republican interest in the Senate race – even though Walker has never run for office before, and only registered to vote in Georgia last week.

"Herschel changes the game because he is a real celebrity," Smith said. "And that really does create an interesting opportunity for Georgia Republicans. As long as Herschel’s baggage doesn’t become overwhelming."

Walker’s baggage includes allegations of spousal abuse and issues with mental health.  But Walker will have the benefit of former President Donald Trump’s backing. The two have been close for decades, when Trump recruited Walker out of UGA to play for his USFL team, the New Jersey Generals.

Credit: AP
President Donald Trump greets former running back Herschel Walker before speaking at a campaign event at the Cobb Galleria Centre, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

That works just fine for some Republicans 11Alive talked with in Woodstock. "Even more reason to like him," said Wright.

"I see him on Fox News all the time. I think he would be a good political person," said Chuck Zanger of Woodstock.

But some Republicans said Walker has to be more than just Trump’s guy in the senate race.

"Trump chose Herschel. A celebrity chose a celebrity. Makes sense," said Smith, a Republican who broke with Trump in 2019 when Trump tweeted that four "Democrat Congresswomen” should “go back” to the countries “they originally came from.”  Smith described it as a "racist trope."

"Now what we need to see is, can that celebrity [Walker] come with policy, come with good governance ideas, and do we see conviction in him, such that people will want to join the Herschel team and run with Herschel," Smith said.

If Walker wins the GOP nod, he would take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in November 2022.

    

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