By Alex Rogers and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Former President Donald Trump on Thursday gave Republican former football star Herschel Walker his “Complete and Total Endorsement” in Georgia’s US Senate race, praising him as “a friend, a Patriot and an outstanding American who is going to be a GREAT United States Senator.”
“Herschel Walker will never let you down,” Trump said in a statement. Walker in turn thanked the former President in a tweet, writing: “Together, we will win back the U.S. Senate for GEORGIA!!”
While Walker is the favorite to secure the GOP nomination, some Republicans have expressed concern about the political newcomer’s ability to beat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in 2022. Three Republican candidates — Georgia agriculture commissioner Gary Black, construction firm owner Kelvin King and banking executive and Navy veteran Latham Saddler — have already announced their campaigns.
The endorsement from Trump underscores the former President’s desire to be a major player in next year’s Republican primaries — a move that runs counter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s outspoken stance that the party needs to back candidates with the best chance of winning general elections as the GOP looks to retake the Senate.
But Trump’s backing of the onetime football star comes as no surprise.
Walker has had a long relationship with the former President dating to 1984, when Trump — the then-owner of the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals — gave Walker a contract extension.
They stayed in touch and Walker would visit the Trumps at their house in Greenwich, Connecticut. He later appeared on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” with Trump and encouraged his 2016 and 2020 presidential bids.
In December, Walker tweeted a video supporting Trump’s effort to overturn his loss to then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Trump responded, “Herschel is speaking the truth!”
Looming over Walker’s nascent campaign are reports that he has threatened violence against multiple women.
CNN Investigates reported earlier Thursday that a Texas woman told police in 2002 that Walker had threatened and stalked her, according to a police report. Over the years, two other women — Walker’s ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend — have also accused him of making threats, telling authorities Walker claimed he would shoot them in the head.
Walker’s campaign declined to respond to the woman’s allegations or discuss the 2002 police report. In response to questions about the incident, Mallory Blount, a campaign spokesperson, cited Walker’s past struggles with mental health issues, which he’s spoken about publicly.
“It is sad that many in politics and the media who praised Herschel for his transparency over a decade ago are now making false statements, stereotyping, attacking, and attempting to sensationalize his past just because he is a Republican Senate candidate,” she said in a statement.
The race against Warnock, who’s running for a full six-year term after winning a special election runoff earlier this year, could decide control of the Senate. Democrats in the upper chamber have the slimmest of majorities — 50-50 — held only by Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. Warnock beat former Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler by two points.
Democratic Party of Georgia spokesman Dan Gottlieb said in a statement Thursday that Trump’s endorsement of Walker “cements the nightmare scenario that Republican leaders in Georgia and Washington have wanted to avoid. This is going to be a long, divisive, and expensive intra-party fight focused on political loyalty tests — not the issues that matter most to Georgians.”
The former President has now publicly weighed into a handful of key Senate races — including backing Army veteran Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania, Rep. Ted Budd in North Carolina, Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama and Kelly Tshibaka, a former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner who is taking on Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.