Herschel Walker (L) and Raphael Warnock (R) speak on the campaign trail. (Photo: Fox 5 Atlanta)

A pastor and a football player walk into a bar. Or in this case, a debate stage. These two candidates, incumbent senator Rev. Raphael Warnock and challenger Herschel Walker will face off in the midterm elections on Tuesday, November 8.

A third-party candidate, Libertarian Chase Oliver, is also in the race. If elected, he would be the first LGBTQ senator from Georgia; however, he is severely behind in polling.

Warnock, the Democratic candidate, was elected in a special election against Kelly Loeffler to replace Senator Johnny Isakson. Now, after two years in the Senate, he is up for reelection. 

Warnock has drawn on his history as the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church to relate to voters on the campaign trail. He has also expounded on his policy victories, which include capping costs for prescription drugs and insulin, as well as working with Texas senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, to fund highways that run through Texas and Georgia.

Republicans have been attacking Warnock for voting to pass bills such as the Inflation Reduction Act and supporting President Joe Biden increasing the number of IRS employees, which they argue will hurt lower-income Georgians.

Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate, is a former NFL football player with no prior political experience. He is backed by former president Donald Trump, and Walker supports lower taxes, a strong military, and funding law enforcement.

Another one of Walker’s major campaign promises is to fight for energy independence instead of importing fuel from other countries. Walker describes this as both an inflation issue and a national security issue.

This election has gotten lots of national attention, both because of the closeness of the race and from the number of scandals that have come out during the campaign. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) discovered that Herschel Walker lied about graduating college and misled voters, claiming to be a Cobb County police officer even though there is no record of him working there.

Democrats have also highlighted Walker’s alleged history of abuse. “Walker’s threats and alleged menacing behavior toward his ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, and other women date to at least 2001,” reported NBC News.

In his memoir, Walker discussed his mental health and attributed these violent incidents to his dissociative identity disorder. If elected, he would be the most prominent politician to be open about his mental health, the AJC claims.

Walker’s most recent scandal surfaced when his former girlfriend revealed that Walker encouraged and paid for her abortion in 2009, even though Walker claims to be pro-life and supports a ban on abortion, the Daily Beast reports. Walker has claimed this is a lie.

Warnock has also come under fire. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock is the senior pastor, owns an apartment building that helps to house people with disabilities and mental illnesses. However, during the pandemic, at least eight residents were evicted, even while Warnock criticized the senate for not helping families struggling to pay rent during lockdowns, the Washington Free Beacon reports.

Warnock and Walker debated in Savannah, Georgia on October 14. Walker said Warnock “represents Joe Biden and not Georgia,” and cited that Warnock voted with Biden 96% of the time. Warnock said, “at the end of the day this race is about who’s ready to represent Georgia in the US Senate, and I think that choice is clear”.

Much of the debate focused on law enforcement and crime. Walker criticized Warnock for supporting no-cash bail. But Warnock cited his support of the COPS program and the Invest to Protect program as evidence he supports law enforcement and is working to lower crime.

The candidates also debated student loan debt relief. Warnock supported Biden’s executive order to forgive $10,000 of student debt for middle and low-income borrowers but says the student debt system needs larger reform to make sure a student debt crisis doesn’t happen again. Walker proposed “getting rid of federal funding for any college that raises its costs”.

Political strategist Tharon Johnson doesn’t believe the debate will have a huge impact since he thinks most voters have already decided who they are going to vote for. However, he says, the debate may help with fundraising and enthusiasm.

What Pace Is Doing to Help Students Vote

Tharon Johnson stresses the importance of young people voting in the midterms and says “young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 are a key voting block” and may decide this election.

Ted Ward, the Associate Director of Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL), wants Pace students to get involved with the election process. He has been working with the Community Engagement Board to help Pace students register to vote, and encouraging students to learn about the election process. “If they know more about the system, they have the autonomy to make the choice that best suits them,” Ward says.

The senate election will be especially crucial because the senate is closely tied between Republicans and Democrats. The Georgia race will help to decide important national issues such as affordable housing, inflation, healthcare, and reproductive rights. “At a time when we know that Georgia lags behind in voter registration, I am happy and proud that schools are encouraging kids to register to vote,” Johnson says.

And even for those under eighteen, Mr. Ward says, “being involved in the process” is still important. Younger students can still advocate for policies, help with voter outreach, and be aware of politics.

Junior Haley Hirokawa, along with Mr. Ward, has also been working with the ACLU to help students register to become poll watchers, people who help voters sign in, cast digital ballots, and watch for irregularities. Hirokawa herself will be working at the polls this November. “We’d love to get people more involved in the elections,” she says.

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