Georgia Republican Herschel Walker has accepted an invitation in his US Senate race to debate Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, but it is not one of three debate invitations Warnock has previously accepted, making it clear whether the two will actually clash in person. before the November general elections.
Walker’s campaign said Wednesday that the candidate had accepted an invitation from Nexstar Media Group and other television stations to debate Warnock in Savannah on Oct. 13.
Early in-person voting begins in Georgia on October 17.
“It’s time for people to see the difference. So on October 14th, I want Senator Warnock to be ready, because I’ve accepted a debate, and now he can stop talking and show people that he’s going to support his words and come to the debate,” Walker told Fox. Sean Hannity news on Tuesday.
Walker has been proclaiming his willingness to debate Warnock for months, but his campaign in recent weeks has expressed concern about whether formats and moderators would be fair to Walker. The Republican candidate skipped debates during his easy primary victory despite criticism from some Republicans.
Warnock and the Democrats have relentlessly attacked Walker as unqualified and unreliable after months of negative news, and polls show Warnock barely ahead, increasing pressure on Walker. Georgia is one of the most important states as Republicans try to regain control of the Senate from the Democrats, who took over the House only after Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff won two rounds in January 2021.
Warnock in June accepted invitations to three debates from WTOC-TV in Savannah, the Atlanta Press Club and a group of news organizations in Macon.
Walker’s preferred debate would be broadcast on Nexstar stations WSAV-TV in Savannah, WJBF-TV in Augusta and WRBL-TV in Columbus, as well as WAGA-TV in Atlanta, WGXA-TV in Macon and WFXL-TV in Albany. The debate would take place in front of a live audience somewhere in Savannah.
WSAV-TV reported Wednesday that Walker would only participate in its debate. Walker’s spokeswoman, Mallory Blount, did not respond to an Associated Press question about whether Walker would decline further invitations.
On Wednesday, Warnock’s campaign said he was still committed to these invites and had not accepted Nexstar’s invitation.
“Two months ago, Rev. Warnock accepted invitations to three well-established Georgia debates in Atlanta, Savannah and Macon to be broadcast statewide after Herschel Walker said he would debate the Rev. Warnock anywhere, anytime. Nothing has changed,” said campaign manager Quentin Fulks.
A proposal provided by the Walker campaign indicated that Nexstar would inform candidates in advance of topics to be discussed, but not specific issues.
For now, the Atlanta and Macon debates are still ongoing, organizers said Wednesday, with Warnock and libertarian Chase Oliver accepting. Laurie Strauss of the Atlanta Press Club said the club is in talks with Walker’s campaign.
“I’m still hopeful that we’ll get them to confirm,” Strauss said.
The Atlanta Press Club represents candidates who decline their debate with an empty podium, allowing other candidates to freely attack the absent debater. These sessions also allow candidates to question each other.
Debbie Blankenship, executive director of Mercer University for Collaborative Journalism, which is organizing the Macon debate, said her group never heard from Walker’s campaign, despite several attempts to contact the candidate.
Blankenship said the consortium of news organizations wanted to mount a debate to ensure the candidates met the needs of central Georgia and rural Georgia. She said the debates are a chance to hear from candidates directly.
“I think this gives candidates the opportunity to answer questions directly,” said Blankenship. “They are not filtered by political ads or press releases.”
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