U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker tried to out-preach the preacher during a campaign stop at the Classic Center on Saturday.
“We’re in a spiritual battle,” the former Georgia Bulldogs running back told about 200 red-and-black-clad supporters.
“I got into this race because God wants a warrior, not a politician,” Walker continued.
The Republican is locked in a tight race with Sen. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. Walker accused Warnock of wanting to talk about race, in contrast to King’s admonition that people should be judged by the content of their character.
In a brief stump speech, Walker hit on a litany of GOP culture war talking points, from transgender athletes in women’s sports to the Keystone Pipeline.
“We won’t recognize this country” if Democrats keep control of the Senate, he said. “They’ll change it.”
Then he urged his flock to turn out to vote. “Vote for me, and I’ll help us all get to the promised land.”
As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently noted, Walker has been using the language of white evangelicals on the campaign trail, talking about redemption and how God’s grace healed him of mental illness, which he blames for the domestic abuse and alleged abortions in his past.
“Herschel Walker is tapping into the community of faith and using coded language that says to white evangelical voters, ‘I’m one of you,’” Emory University political science professor Andra Gillespie said.
But Black faith leaders are sharply criticizing Walker, according to the New York Times.
“They figured that they would delude us by picking somebody who they thought would in fact represent us better with a football than with a degree in philosophy,” Jamal Bryant, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, said in a sermon that went viral online. “They thought we were so slow—that we were so stupid—that we would elect the lowest caricature of a stereotypical broken Black man as opposed to somebody who is educated and erudite and focused.”
Walker also referenced his football background and the late coach Vince Dooley, calling Democrats “the C-team.”
In a news release Friday, Walker attacked Warnock for using a campaign bus with a Tennessee license plate—Georgia’s opponent today.
And in a text to supporters before the game, he reminded them of his relationship with Dooley, who died last month, including a link to a TV ad featuring Dooley’s endorsement.
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