Six candidates are running in the Republican Party primary election for U.S. Senator from Georgia on May 24, 2022. Gary Black, Kelvin King, Latham Saddler, and Herschel Walker have led in fundraising and media attention. Josh Clark and Jonathan McColumn are also running.
NPR‘s Domenico Montanaro said, “Walker, a former Heisman-winning University of Georgia Bulldog who has Trump’s endorsement, may have high name identification in the state, but he’s untested as a candidate. Walker has written about his battle with dissociative identity disorder and is facing allegations of domestic abuse from past relationships and that he exaggerated his post-football business success.” Politifact‘s Louis Jacobson wrote, “Walker’s primary opponents aren’t hitting him on policy. Rather, they are focusing on past allegations of domestic violence made between 2001 and 2008.”
Black was elected Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture in 2011 and occupied the office at the time of the election. Black worked as a cattle rancher and held positions in the Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Agribusiness Council. “I’m running for the U.S. Senate to take America back! We need our government to focus on its fundamental responsibility — not the change to the foundations of our country being pushed by Raphael Warnock and Joe Biden,” Black said. Black challenged Walker’s electability based on past allegations of domestic abuse, saying, “Folks, he can’t win in November. The baggage is too heavy. It’ll never happen.” Former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R), U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), and U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R) endorsed Black.
King served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and worked in procurement, business development, and construction. King founded Osprey Management, a construction firm. “I believe our nation deserves better than President Biden and his weak leadership, just as I believe our state deserves better than Senator Warnock’s divisive far-left representation,” King said. King’s campaign released an ad focused on allegations of domestic violence against Walker: “After the violence, the abuse, the stalking, the death threats, Herschel Walker still has not been forthright with the people of Georgia, not about his violent behavior or the threats he has made against women and police.” The Georgia Republican Assembly endorsed King.
Saddler served as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer and was Director of Intelligence Programs for the National Security Council. Saddler also worked as a White House Fellow from 2018 to 2019. Saddler said his platform is based on the “three foundational pillars” of security, liberty, and prosperity, and his campaign website said, “Latham Saddler has fought for our nation abroad and at home to ensure just that — an America that is strong, secure and free. For you, your children and many generations to come. As your United States Senator, Latham will be relentless in this pursuit.” Saddler criticized Walker’s absence at debates and GOP events, saying, “If Herschel Walker can’t even debate Republicans, how is he going to hold Raphael Warnock accountable in a general election?” The Republican Jewish Coalition of Georgia endorsed Saddler.
Walker was a professional athlete and Olympian and worked for a number of food-supply businesses. Former President Donald Trump (R) appointed Walker as chairman of the Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition in 2018. Walker said his campaign was about “saving our country and the great state of Georgia from President Biden’s disastrous agenda which has led to higher prices, out-of-control crime, dangerous open borders, and ‘America Last’ foreign policy.” Responding to criticism of Walker’s electability, campaign spokesperson Mallory Blount said, “The other Republicans in this race are at less than 15% combined. Their only strategy to gain any sort of relevance is to obsess over Herschel. Herschel is solely focused on beating Raphael Warnock.” Trump endorsed Walker in September of 2021, and Walker also received endorsements from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and evangelist Franklin Graham.
The Cook Political Report rated the general election a Tossup, meaning neither party has an advantage. In the last regular general election for the seat, incumbent Johnny Isakson (R), who assumed office in 2005, defeated Jim Barksdale (D) with 55% of the vote to Barksdale’s 41%. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Kelly Loeffler (R) to the Senate seat after Isakson resigned in December 2019 for health reasons. Raphael Warnock (D) defeated Loeffler in the special general runoff election on Jan. 5, 2021, with 51% of the vote to Loeffler’s 49%.