U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock slammed his Republican opponent Herschel Walker for skipping a debate on Sunday, Oct. 16, weeks ahead of Georgia’s primary election.
After months of being accused of dodging the debate stage, Walker faced the Democrat incumbent for a highly anticipated debate days earlier, on Friday, Oct. 14 in Savannah. However, the Republican refused to show up for a second round in Atlanta on Sunday.
Warnock and Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver harped on Walker’s absence signaled by an empty podium at the Atlanta Press Club event. The Republican issued a statement ahead of the debate calling it a “one-sided sham.”
“Unfortunately for Georgia voters, tonight will not feature the fair and honest line of questioning that Georgians witnessed during Friday night’s debate,” Walker said.
Walker claims Sunday’s debate was hosted by “Warnock’s liberal friends, many of whom even donated, not only to his own campaign, but also to many of his closest political allies like Joe Biden, Jon Ossoff, and Mark Kelly.”
In his refusal to show up on Sunday, Walker also criticized Warnock for not directly answering questions about his voting record, being soft on crime, and his church sending eviction notices to residents.
On Sunday, Walker used the Republican candidate’s absence as a pressure point, saying that “half of being a senator is showing up.”
The two Black candidates have been in a war of words over a public debate since the summer. Walker eventually said he would debate the incumbent “anytime, any day,” but under the right circumstances, foreshadowing his opposition to Sunday’s debate.
“I just want to make it for the fans, not about a political party or about some media, and all he doing is talking,” Walker told Fox News host Brian Kilmead on July 27.
Warnock took a jab at the Republican’s past comment on Sunday, posting a photo of the empty lectern on Twitter with the caption: ‘”Any time, any place’ huh?”
“Herschel Walker didn’t show up for Georgians last night,” Warnock said in another tweet on Sunday. “What makes us think he’ll show up for Georgians in the Senate?”
Warnock also mocked Walker for flashing a badge on the debate stage on Friday to support his claims of a law enforcement status, which had been debunked in reports. One of the moderators of Friday’s debate called the badge a “prop” and scolded him for debate rules that prohibit the use of props. Memes of the moment have been trending on Twitter.
Walker told NBC News Kristen Welker in an NBC News interview that aired on Sunday that it is a “legit badge.”
“That’s a badge that I was given by a police officer and I do have the badge I carry with me all the time. It’s a real badge. It’s not a fake badge. It is a real badge,” Walker said.
Walker said he received the honorary badge from the sheriff in his hometown of Johnson County, which he alleges authorizes him to “work with law enforcement.” He said he has completed training, leadership and health and fitness programs.
However, Kristen Welker pointed out that the National Sheriffs Association said an honorary badge is “for the trophy case.”
“That is totally not true,” Walker argued, adding that the reporter should call the officials who gave him the badge and county sheriffs who support him.
Warnock on Sunday used Walker’s stunt with the badge to attack his track record.
“I’m not going to be distracted about what Herschel Walker says about me. He doesn’t tell the truth about himself. He says he graduated from college. He didn’t. He said he was valedictorian of his class. He wasn’t. He said he started a business that doesn’t even exist.”
He continued, “And yet when I said, ‘You pretended to be a police officer,’ he presented a badge — as if that were proof that he really is a police officer. And now he wants us to think that he’s a senator. I think the people of Georgia are wise and discerning. And they know that at the end of the day, I know who I work for. I work for them.”
Current polls show Walker below the incumbent by an average of two-point-five points for the Nov. 8 election. The closely contended case could lead to a runoff in December, which could decide the Senate majority. The Senate is currently 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaker vote.