Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is backing former football star Herschel Walker’s Senate bid in Georgia, a sign that the Republican establishment is aligning behind Walker after initially holding concerns about the GOP candidate’s viability.
McConnell over the summer had privately expressed concerns with Walker’s potential candidacy and suggested to allies that former Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler should consider running again after their narrow losses in January, CNN reported. Some Republicans have raised concerns about abuse allegations against Walker and his ability to win a crucial seat.
The Georgia Senate race is a key opportunity for Republicans in next year’s midterm elections to pick up a Senate seat in a 50-50 split chamber, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote.
Walker is running in the Georgia Republican primary for the chance to take on first-term Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Walker announced his candidacy in August after public encouragement from former President Donald Trump and has raised $3.7 million in the five weeks after launching his Senate bid.
McConnell is the latest Republican to throw his support behind Walker. Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, also recently endorsed Walker.
“I am happy to endorse Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate in Georgia,” McConnell said in a statement Wednesday. “Herschel is the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock, and help us take back the Senate. I look forward to working with Herschel in Washington to get the job done.”
Walker has faced allegations that he threatened his ex-wife and other women with violence over the span of a decade. In a 2008 interview with CNN, Walker said he was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, which was previously known as multiple personality disorder, and spoke openly about struggling with mental illness and the violent and disturbing thoughts he had. Walker’s campaign has also noted he has received help since his allegedly violent incidents in the early 2000s.
Another allegation, however, surfaced this year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Myka Dean, who told police she had a romantic relationship with Walker, said he had threatened to kill her, according a 2012 police report, CNN reported. Walker’s campaign has vehemently denied the claims involving Dean, who died in 2019, and issued a statement of support for Walker from Dean’s mother.
McConnell last month downplayed the allegations of abuse against Walker in an interview with Politico.
“There are some things written that indicate he’s had some challenges in his life. On the other hand, the good news is, he’s made several impressive performances on national television,” McConnell told Politico, adding, “I think there’s every indication he’s going to be a good candidate.”
Other Republican candidates vying to take on Warnock next year include Georgia agriculture commissioner Gary Black, construction firm owner Kelvin King and banking executive and Navy veteran Latham Saddler.
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