Georgia’s 2022 election field began firming up on Monday, as the Democratic incumbent and Republican frontrunner in the state’s high-profile U.S. Senate race officially qualified to run for office.
Democratic U.S. Sen Raphael Warnock and Republican Senate challenger Herschel Walker were the top names among hundreds of candidates who streamed through the state Capitol in Atlanta on Monday to file papers, launching an 11-week sprint to the May 24 party primaries.
Warnock so far has only little-known Democratic primary opposition as he seeks to win a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate. With inflation rising, Warnock in recent weeks has been turning to a message of trying to cut everyday costs for people, including capping the price of insulin at $35 a month and suspending the federal tax on gasoline.
“I’m on my way back to D.C. to fight to lower the costs for consumers, especially insulin, which is something I’m focused on right now, trying to lower gas prices and hold corporations accountable, Warnock said after qualifying.
Walker reiterated his stance that he has entered the race because “this country is hurting.” The football great tops a field of contenders including Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Navy veteran and banker Latham Saddler, contractor Kelvin King and state Rep. Josh Clark.
The Associated Press has reported that police in Texas once confiscated a gun from Walker after a 2001 domestic disturbance. The AP also cited police records in which his ex-wife and former girlfriends said he made a string of violent threats. Monday, Walker urged people to read his memoir about his mental health struggles and “get to the truth.” After that, he said “women do have to judge me.”
“I think women will be safer with Herschel Walker than anyone, because I am the safe candidate in this race,” Walker said, an apparent reference to the blame he places on Democrats for an increase in violent crime.
Walker was evasive when asked whether he would debate fellow Republicans in the primary, saying, “I’m not going to play games.”
“I’m thinking about debating Raphael Warnock, because that’s who I need to be debating right now,” Walker said, deriding Warnock’s proposal to cut the federal gas tax as “talking about eliminating stuff to get votes.”
Dan McLagan, a spokesperson for Black, predicted Walker would decline debates because he would be “humiliated.”
“Herschel Walker is not smart enough to debate anybody,” McLagan said.
Qualifying runs through noon Friday. Still to file papers are Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has no announced opposition for governor, Republican incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and top GOP gubernatorial challenger David Perdue.
Also on the ballot are seven other statewide offices, two Public Service Commission posts, 14 congressional seats, 56 state Senate seats and 180 state House seats.
Black, Lt. Gov Geoff Duncan and Labor Commissioner Mark Butler are not seeking reelection to their posts. More than three dozen House members and at least nine senators are also not expected to seek reelection, although many of those officials plan to run for other offices.
For members of the U.S. House and the General Assembly, it will be the first election under new district lines drawn following the 2020 U.S. Census. Those lines are likely to aid Republicans in adding a ninth congressional seat, up from the eight Georgia seats they currently hold, as U.S. Rep Lucy McBath exits the 6th District to run in the 7th District. McBath is challenging a fellow Democratic incumbent, Carolyn Bourdeaux, in what could be the highest-profile Democratic primary this year.
McBath told reporters that she was “staunch supporter” of President Joe Biden’s agenda, drawing a contrast to Bourdeaux, who balked at the cost of some Biden proposals over the summer. Bourdeaux said she was focused on responding to the needs of her district and said that unlike McBath, she actually lives in Gwinnett County, although not in the part of the county where the redrawn district lies.
“My son is enrolled in school in Gwinnett, I’ve run five campaigns in Gwinnett and I’m just very deeply invested in this community,” Bourdeaux said.
In the General Assembly, Democrats are likely to pick up some seats, but many races are likely to be less competitive, as majority Republicans redrew lines to fortify their hold on enough seats to maintain majorities in the House and Senate. Congressional and legislative lines are being challenged in lawsuits.
There could be some surprises, though, as candidates enter and exit races. In recent weeks, for example, Republican Patrick Witt has shifted from running for the 10th Congressional District to seeking election as state insurance commissioner. And Gwinnett County Board of Education member Everton Blair has dropped his plans to seek the Democratic nomination for state superintendent.
Party runoffs will be June 21 if needed, followed by the general election on Nov. 8.