Oct 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Warnock, Walker square off in debate for key Senate seat

Photo illustration of Raphael Warnock tinted blue and Herschel Walker tinted red separated by a white halftone divider.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photos: Paras Griffin and Megan Varner/Getty Images

In their only confirmed midterm elections debate, incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Republican candidate Herschel Walker faced off Friday in Savannah, Georgia.

Driving the news: The two Georgians answered a range of questions about abortion, inflation, Vladimir Putin and student debt relief. But they also faced questions about various controversies in their personal lives.

Why it matters: Early voting in Georgia starts on Monday. This is one of the key battleground races on the Senate map.

The big picture: In a year with record-high inflation and low approval ratings for President Biden, Walker continued his strategy of attacking Warnock for a voting record closely aligned with Biden and sought to tie Warnock to the president at every turn.

  • "Can you tell me why he voted with Joe Biden 96% of the time if he was standing for Georgia?" Walker asked.
  • Warnock, meanwhile, highlighted multiple bipartisan pieces of legislation as well as past stands against the Biden administration, including protesting the White House's proposed closure of a Savannah military training facility.
  • "I will work with anyone and stand up against anybody I need to stand up against to get good things done for Georgia," he said.

Of note: Of the recent allegations that Walker paid for an ex-girlfriend's abortion, he maintained his denial: "That was a lie and I'm not backing down," he said.

The intrigue: Multiple times in the debate Warnock fired back with several of the other reports in Walker's past including about his claim to have worked in law enforcement. (He was an honorary deputy at the Cobb County Police Department, as first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

  • Walker appeared to flash a badge on stage in response, which a moderator chastised him for as against the rules for using a prop.

Zoom in: The candidates staked out opposing policy positions on most everything.

  • On abortion: Warnock maintained his position that the government should not be involved in women's health care decisions. "I trust women more than I trust politicians," he said. Walker said he supports Georgia's six-week abortion ban, a shift from his previous anti-abortion position without exception.
  • On student debt relief: Warnock says he lobbied President Biden personally to pass the policy. Walker rejects it: "I didn't co-sign for anyone's loan and it's not right. It's not fair."

Yes, but: Neither candidate raised their hand in support for a federal minimum wage.

The bottom line: Both also agreed to accept the results of their election, regardless of outcome.

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