Herschel Walker is well aware of the controversy surrounding his bid to unseat the incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate. It’s a daunting task, but one he’s chosen to pursue instead of enjoying his retirement and the fruits of his successful business ventures. But Walker, a Heisman Trophy winner, is relying on his natural ability to excel and his tendency to persevere to get him across the goal line as he navigates the rigorous terrain of politics in his home state of Georgia as a Republican.
As a celebrated retired athlete and successful business owner, you obviously didn’t need to run for office. Why did you decide to pursue politics?
I’ve been very blessed in my life. I was one of those kids that wasn’t supposed to make it. When I was younger I had a speech impediment and it was years before I would speak out loud in a classroom; people didn’t think I could speak. I overcame a lot growing up, [I] got a scholarship to go to college and play ball and I’ve been truly blessed.
When I told my mom I was going to run for this Senate seat, she told me it was going to be hard … and it has been. But, I’m not one to shy away from hard work. Everything in my life has been hard. I see where our country is, where Georgia is and I don’t think I could go on and not try to help. There is a need for true leadership. I prayed about it and I believe this is what I’m supposed to do.
You are running on the Republican ticket and many feel you are being used by the party against your community. What do you say to those accusations?
I’ve heard that a lot, of course. What community would I be working against? I have freedom of thought. I believe in doing right and helping everyone no matter what color you are. My parents taught me to treat everyone with respect and dignity regardless of race or culture. One of our biggest problems right now is that we’re so divided. Everyone — regardless of color — should have the right to an education, to feel safe and protected, and that’s what I believe. Anyone that knows me, knows I don’t do a song and dance for anyone. I do what I think is right because I answer to someone greater than man.
You consistently speak of unification and moving forward, however the Black community has watched numerous Black men and women being harassed and killed by the police. Is it realistic to suggest moving forward if we haven’t acknowledged the issues?
Yes, we have to acknowledge the problem of racism, but we need effective leadership in law enforcement. I believe we need to rebuild trust on both sides. The community has to have trust in law enforcement and vice versa, because everyone has the same goal, which is to get home safe. I can remember being out late one night and watching an officer pull over a car. I remember worrying about the person in the car but also hoping the officer would be safe as well. The answers to our problems are in working together.
There are numerous commercials about your history of domestic violence with your ex-wife. Would you like to address those allegations?
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my past. I had issues with mental health, but I got help and worked through them. My ex-wife and I are the best of friends today. The Bible says “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” My opponent is a pastor, so he understands that. Many of those accusations are false. I’ve never said I was perfect, but I’ve moved on from my past and I’m a better person.
There are rumors suggesting you refused to debate Raphael Warnock. Is this true?
I didn’t refuse to debate him. I didn’t want to debate during the primaries because there was still more work to do. I’ve done the work and now I’m open to a debate. I wanted a live audience and for it to be televised so the people can hear both sides and then make their decision.
I am not a politician, and I’ve said, “I know he’s a pastor and a slick talker and I’m just a country boy from Wrightsville, Georgia.” One thing about me, though, is I know right from wrong and I’m always going to fight for what’s right. I want to see Georgia in a better place and I believe we can get there with the right people, [and] the right leadership at the table.
Photos by DaeRae Media