Herschel Walker touched on a number of issues—taxes, energy, crime, immigration—but if his speech in Jefferson is any indication, the one his campaign has settled on to try to get him over the finish line in the runoff against Sen. Raphael Warnock is transgender athletes.
Walker’s campaign stop at a Jackson County agriculture warehouse on Tuesday featured Riley Gaines, a champion University of Kentucky swimmer who’s been an outspoken critic of transgender women in women’s sports after competing against Lia Thomas, who transitioned during college at the University of Pennsylvania.
“That’s like having Herschel Walker compete against your daughter,” said Walker, a Heisman Trophy-winning former NFL running back. “You don’t want me to compete against your daughter, do you?”
Women’s sports will be destroyed if biological men are allowed to compete, said Gaines, who’s been a frequent guest on right-wing media and cut ads for conservatives like North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. “There are only two sexes, and you cannot change your sex,” she said.
As senator, “I will get men out of women’s sports,” Walker pledged. It was an issue he came back to again and again during his stump speech.
“I’ll tell you the definition of a man and a woman, because it’s in the Bible,” he said at another point. “A man and a woman are two different people.” And a man can’t get pregnant, he added.
Walker then went on to attack a military leadership he said had become “weak” and obsessed with pronouns. “Pronouns? What’s a pronoun? I can tell you, a grenade don’t care about their pronouns.”
Asked for comment, Cameron Harrelson, a political activist and immediate past president of the Athens PRIDE + Queer Collective, condemned Walker’s statements.
“Herschel Walker’s Bible is not the law of the land—period,” Harrelson said. “This is clearly a desperate attempt by the far right to mobilize their most extreme base around issues that are complex and often misrepresented by conservatives and the media.
“The last time I checked, Herschel Walker does not identify as trans, therefore his comparison and comments are irrelevant. This rhetoric by Walker is dangerous and only seeks to further marginalize a group of people who continually experience discrimination, hate and extreme violence. Trans youth and individuals belong everywhere, from sports to leadership, end of discussion.”
Pete Fuller, chair of the Jackson County Democrats, also released a statement in response to Walker’s stop in Jefferson: “Competence matters. Character matters. Herschel Walker possesses neither the character nor the competence to represent us in the U.S. Senate, and Georgians know that Rev. Warnock is ready to keep representing the best of us. We need to vote, and we need to vote early, because the stakes are far too high.”
While Walker criticized President Joe Biden for supporting transgender athletes, the issue is a moot one in Georgia, where the Georgia High School Association mandated that athletes must compete with the sex that’s on their birth certificate after a last-minute bill passed the state legislature.
After recounting her frustration with the NCAA for allowing Thomas to compete, Gaines also took a shot at Warnock for suing to allow early voting the Saturday after Thanksgiving. “Come on,” she said. “Admit you’re stressed about losing without saying it.”
Walker, meanwhile, could not remember when early voting would take place when it came time to remind his supporters to turn out. In Clarke County, early voting for the Senate runoff starts Sunday, Nov. 27 and runs through Friday, Dec. 2, barring a court decision allowing Saturday voting on Nov. 26. Election Day is Dec. 6.
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