Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock in national spotlight for highly anticipated debate

Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock in national spotlight for highly anticipated debate

Warnock and Walker debate in Georgia

Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker debate in Georgia

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Savannah – Senate hopefuls Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker faced off Friday night in their first and only scheduled debate before the election, addressing a wide range of topics crucial to the state’s voters.

Both candidates pledged in their opening statements to be strong advocates for Georgia in Washington. Warnock stated that he was raised in public housing just a few blocks from the debate venue. He said that only in America is his story possible.

The candidates discussed many issues critical to the state, including the economy, election integrity and abortion. Throughout the debate, Walker repeatedly tried to link Warnock to President Biden, telling voters that Warnock has voted 96% of the time with the president.

Warnock declined to say whether he would back Mr. Biden if he ran for office again in 2024, telling voters, “I have not thought for a minute about who should run.”

Walker, on the other hand, said he’d fully support former President Donald Trump if he ran again, saying Trump is his “friend” and “I won’t leave my allies.” Both candidates, however, acknowledged that Mr. Biden won the 2020 election, and both pledged to respect the results of Georgia’s race.

In another notable moment later in the debate, Warnock criticized Walker for having “a problem with the truth” and referenced reports that he had previously pretended to be a member of law enforcement. Walker appeared to show a badge and said he had worked with many police officers. A moderator then chastised Walker for bringing what she called “a prop.” “

“It’s not a prop, this is real,” Walker responded.

Abortion has brought an extra level of attention to the race in recent days, due to a recent report by The Daily Beast that Walker, an abortion access opponent, paid for a woman’s abortion. Later, the news outlet reported that the woman was the mother of one Walker’s children. Walker has repeatedly denied the allegation. CBS News has not confirmed that the Daily Beast reported.

Walker on Friday night said once again that the allegation is a “lie,” telling voters that “I’m a Christian, I believe in life.”

And as he did in an interview with ABC News earlier this week, Walker continued to soften his previous stance on abortion, though he denied Friday this was the case. He said in the debate that he supports the Georgia “heartbeat” bill, which is the 2019 abortion law that went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, ending the federal right to an abortion.

“I say I support the heartbeat bill,” Walker said Friday. “I support the Georgia heartbeat bill, because it’s the bill of people from Gov. Kemp. And I said that it has exceptions. I stated that I am a Christian, but I also represent the Georgian people. So, what do the people of Georgia stand for? I’m gonna support them.

The Georgia law allows exceptions for rape and incest if a police report is filed. If the mother’s life or that of the fetus is in danger, there is an exception.

Earlier this year, though, Walker filled out a candidate survey for an anti-abortion group, the Georgia Life Alliance, in which he indicated he supported an abortion ban without exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

“There’s no exception in my mind,” Walker told reporters in May at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia, adding, “Like I say, I believe in life. I believe in the power of life. “

Ahead of the debate, supporters of each candidate who spoke with CBS News said they planned to tune in.

In Walker’s hometown of Wrightsville, where a brand new football field bearing his name sits near the town center, some local residents said they were looking forward to seeing the University of Georgia football great take the stage.

Herschel Walker Campaigns For Senator Of Georgia With Nikki Haley
Republican Senate candidate for Georgia, Herschel Walker speaks to media at a campaign event on September 9, 2022 in Gwinnett, Georgia.

Megan Varner/Getty Images

“I’m planning to watch everything I get my fingers on because I like to be well-informed on both sides,” said Robert Colson, a Walker supporter. “If I can find the truth out of a candidate that will impress me, that will be great. “

Not far from Raphael Warnock Way in Savannah, Tammie Jenkins, who went to high school with Warnock, said she hoped the debate would stay focused on the issues.

“He was always smart,” Jenkins said of Warnock. She supported him in 2020 but is keeping an open mind. “I want to hear and see everyone’s thoughts. “

Georgia Senate Candidate Raphael Warnock Holds A Campaign Rally In Columbus
Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks to supporters during his campaign tour, outside of the Liberty Theater on October 8, 2022 in Columbus, Georgia.

Megan Varner/Getty Images

Many of the voters CBS News spoke to were with Jenkins — they wanted to hear about issues they care about, like the economy.

“All the backslashing and all that doesn’t matter, it mostly gets down to what are you going to do if you get into the Senate seat,” said Jennifer Jordan, who worries about the economy and rising gas and food prices.

Most polls have the pair virtually tied, and the CBS News Battleground Tracker has Georgia as a “toss up” state, with just 25 days until Election Day. Republicans nationwide are keeping their eyes on the Peach State as they try to work to take back control of the Senate, currently split 50-50, but under Democratic control because Vice President Kamala Harris breaks any tie.

Early voting starts Monday. Early voting begins Monday. Historically, Democrats do better in early elections. A high turnout could indicate that Warnock is ahead, while Walker could benefit from a lower turnout.

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