What you need to know about the Georgia Senate race and Herschel Walker’s abortion claim

Herschel Walker, the Republican running to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia this week denied reports that he had paid for a woman’s abortion in 2009.

Walker vehemently denied the story, calling it a “plain lie” and threatened to sue the store. CBS News has not confirmed The Daily Beast’s claims and reporting.

Walker will make his first public appearance since the allegations surfaced at a campaign rally about three hours outside Atlanta on Thursday.

The Senate race has already been one of the most closely watched of the 2022 cycle. The race features a Black Democratic congressman in a state that hadn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1996 — until it elected two in 2020. And the state had never elect a black senator before Warnock wins his 2020 special election.

Here’s what you need to know about the match and the latest complaints:

What races are on the ballot?

One of Georgia’s Senate seats is on the Nov. 8 ballot, just two years removed from the state’s high-stakes pair of Senate runoffs in January 2021 that decided control of the Senate. Herschel Walker is the Republican challenger to Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. Both parties once again expect their respective paths to a Senate majority to go through Georgia, where more than $243 million has been spent on ads this cycle, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact. Also on the ballot in Georgia is the governor’s race, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is locked in a rematch from 2018 with Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Raphael Warncok, left, and Herschel Walker.

Paras Griffin/Getty Images, Megan Varner/Getty Images

Why is the GOP so bullish on Georgia?

It all depends on Senate control. The Senate is currently split 50-50, but Democrats are in control thanks to the Vice President providing the tiebreaker. But with 35 seats up for re-election in November, Republicans hope they can regain control. That’s where Georiga comes in. A win in the Peach State could be what puts Republicans on the edge and back into the majority.

“Georgia was one where they thought they could just win, even with a not-so-great candidate,” conservative radio host Eric Erickson told CBS News. “And now that he seems to be in more danger.”

President Joe Biden won Georgia in 2020 by just 14,000 votes, or just 0.3%, the first Democrat to win a presidential election since Bill Clinton in 1992. two races of the Senate held in the state in 2020 because of Sen. Johnny Isaacsonhis resignation and the regularly scheduled race of Senator David Perdue. In the race for Perdue’s seat, he actually led Jon Ossoff, 49.7% to 47.9%, after Election Day, but is 0.3% short of the 50% needed to avoid a runner-up round. Despite a last-minute rally by Trump, Ossoff won in the runoff.

As for the other seat, incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler – who had been appointed Isakson’s seat – was forced into a runoff after a jungle primary after Warnock garnered 32.5% of the vote to Loeffler’s 29.5%, although there were 21 candidates in the race. Warnock eventually prevailed in the second round in January.

Who is Herschel Walker?

Walker is best known for his Heisman Trophy-winning performance as a running back for the University of Georgia. He helped lead the team to a National Championship victory in 1980 and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. After three years at Georgia, Walker went on to play professional football for both the now-defunct USFL and the NFL. It was during his time in the USFL that Walker met former President Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of Walker’s Senate race.

Walker announced his candidacy for the Georgia Senate race in August 2021, saying he “can’t sit on the sidelines any longer.” This is a first-time nomination and he often invokes his status as an outsider in Washington on the campaign trail.

Why was Herschel Walker in the news this week?

Walker is on the defensive following a new report from The Daily Beast that the Senate candidate, who has been an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, allegedly paid for a woman he watched to have an abortion in 2009. CBS News has not confirmed regardless of this payment. The unidentified woman supported her claim with a receipt for $575 from an abortion clinic — and a signed personal check for $700 from Walker to cover the expenses. She told The Daily Beast that she came forward because of Walker’s stance on abortion, saying “I just can’t take the hypocrisy anymore. We all deserve better.”

What was his answer?

Walker denied the charge. He tweeted “this is an outright lie” and “this is another disgusting piece of work by a Democrat activist masquerading as a reporter.” He added in the tweet that he plans to sue The Daily Beast for defamation, but Walker’s attorney, Robert Ingram, told CBS News, “We are currently considering our options, but no final decision has been made on the future handling of this matter.”

Walker attended a campaign event in Atlanta on Tuesday, but didn’t let any press inside. His campaign tried to return to the core issues of the campaign against Warnock: the rising cost of living and crime in Georgia. National Republicans have discredited the claims:

The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Rick Scott, likened Walker’s reported payment to allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearings. The same committee added to its Georgia ad on Tuesday, following the complaint against Walker.

Who is Christian Walker?

Christian Walker is the grown son of Herschel Walker and is a notable conservative figure on social media and YouTube. The 23-year-old has previously shown support for his father’s Senate run, tweeting in December to introduce him at Mar-a-Lago and to say a year ago that “everyone is really excited that my dad Herschel Walker is running.”

After the Daily Beast story broke, Christian Walker posted several tweets and videos calling on his father to “stop the lies” and said that “every member of Herschel Walker’s family asked him not to run, because we all knew (some ) his past”. Christian Walker he seemed to confirm some of The Daily Beast’s reporting, he said in a video, “is literally his handwriting on the card.” Following the initial series of posts by his son, Herschel Walker he tweeted“I LOVE my son no matter what.”

What about the polls before this incident?

The latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll, before the complaints, has the two candidates, with Walker trailing incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock by just two points. This puts the fight in the “toss up” category.

What are the Republicans saying?

Many Republicans are standing by Walker as they realize the importance of maintaining a united front ahead of the midterms in efforts to regain control of the Senate.

Scott released a statement saying that Democrats, “they know they’re on the verge of losing the Senate and they know Herschel Walker is winning, so they turned on the smear machine.”

Trump also released a statement supporting Walker, a longtime friend, saying, “Herschel Walker is slandered and maligned by the Fake News Media and obviously the Democrats.” He added, “It is very important to our country and the Great State of Georgia that Herschel Walker wins this election.

What does his opponent say?

Warnock chooses to digress on the matter for now. During an event Monday night, when asked about the latest report by The Daily Beast, he told reporters, “I’ll let the pundits decide how they think it will affect the race.”

Warnock, a pastor, himself has not shied away from accusations during this fight, with advertisements often aired accusing him of domestic abuse. The allegations stem from a 2020 incident where Warnock allegedly ran over his wife’s leg with a car and no charges were laid.

The pair are set to debate in Savannah on Friday, October 14. Abortion is likely to come up in the debate and this could be an opportunity for Warnock to make the allegation against Walker in a race that has become increasingly personal.

What are Georgia voters saying?

Just like incumbent Republicans, many Georgia GOP voters plan to stick with Walker in this race. Adam Whitney told CBS News he believes Georgia Republicans will stick with Walker despite the latest allegations against him.

“He’s very partisan and that people tend to side with the party sometimes over the individual,” Whitney said. “In terms of the overall population, I think people vote straight up with parties.”

Voters on both sides also expressed growing frustration with the frequent accusations against both candidates — and the near-constant statewide television ads for them.

“It’s sad that we can’t talk about real issues that matter because we’re being distracted by people with no integrity like Herschel Walker,” Amy Brookman, a registered Democrat, told CBS News. “I think it hurts Republicans. I’d like to see more dialogue about real issues between Democrats and Republicans.”

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