Republican challenger Herschel Walker, the former Heisman Trophy-winning running back, lost to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a Georgia runoff election Tuesday, ensuring Democrats an outright majority in the Senate for the rest of President Joe Biden’s term.
Neither reached the general election majority required under state law last month, leading to Tuesday’s runoff. Warnock’s win gives the Democrats a 51-49 Senate majority, gaining a seat from the current 50-50 split with John Fetterman’s victory in Pennsylvania. There will be a divided government, however, with Republicans having narrowly flipped House control.
Walker had a storied football career at the University of Georgia from 1980 to ’82, with the Bulldogs going 34-5 in his three seasons. He led them to an undefeated record and national championship in 1980, and in 1982, he won the Heisman as the nation’s top player.
After a stint in the USFL, Walker played for more than a decade in the NFL, making two Pro Bowls and enjoying stints with the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
Walker benefited during the campaign from nearly unmatched name recognition from his football career, yet was dogged by questions about his fitness for office and allegations of hypocrisy.
A multimillionaire businessman, he inflated his philanthropic activities and business achievements, including claiming that his company employed hundreds of people and grossed tens of millions of dollars in sales annually, even though records indicate he had eight employees and averaged about $1.5 million a year. He has suggested that he’s worked as a law enforcement officer and graduated college, though he has done neither.
He was accused by two former girlfriends of encouraging and paying for their abortions, despite supporting an outright national ban on the procedure during the campaign. He denied both women’s allegations.
He was also forced to acknowledge during the campaign that he had fathered three children out of wedlock whom he had never before spoken about publicly. The mother of one of those children told The Daily Beast that Walker had not seen his young son since January 2016 and had to be taken to court for child support — in direct conflict with Walker’s years spent criticizing absentee fathers and his calls for Black men, in particular, to play an active role in their kids’ lives.
His ex-wife said Walker once held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. He has never denied those specifics and wrote of his violent tendencies in a 2008 memoir that attributed the behavior to mental illness.
As a candidate, he sometimes mangled policy discussions, attributing the climate crisis to China’s “bad air” overtaking “good air” from the United States and arguing that diabetics could manage their health by “eating right,” a practice that isn’t enough for insulin-dependent diabetic patients.
In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast, but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Former RB Herschel Walker loses Georgia runoff election