Herschel Walker will run for Senate in Georgia

Herschel Walker, a college football legend in the state of Georgia, has filed paperwork to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) in the 2022 midterm elections.

Walker, a close confidant of former president Donald Trump, filed the paperwork Tuesday afternoon after registering to vote in Georgia earlier this month. A resident of Texas, Walker will return to his home state to establish residency in preparation for the 15-month campaign.

When he arrives, Walker will instantly become the most recognizable Republican seeking Warnock's seat. Walker led Georgia to its most recent national championship, in 1980, and still boasts near-universal name recognition in the state.

Warnock was one of two Democrats, along with Jon Ossoff, to win runoff elections in Georgia in January, tipping the balance of power in Congress away from Republicans. Warnock won the seat vacated by Johnny Isakson in 2019, so his seat is up for election next year, rather than the customary six years.

Walker brings not only his own formidable public image, but also the endorsement of Trump, a friend and confidant of Walker's since the early 1980s. Trump bought the New Jersey Generals of the long-defunct United States Football League in part because Walker was already on the roster. Earlier this year, on March 10, Trump made his intentions for Walker plain in an emailed press release.

“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia?” Trump wrote. “He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the NFL. He is also a GREAT person. Run Herschel, run!”

The question now will be whether Walker's presence is enough to offset Georgia's changing demographics. The state voted Democrat in three consecutive elections of national importance — the two Senate runoffs and November's presidential election — and President Joe Biden was the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

But Walker is the latest in a new breed of politician, one that draws initial attention from their pre-existing celebrity, then leverages their outsider status to build their base of support. It worked for Trump in 2016, it worked for Sen. (and former coach) Tommy Tuberville in Alabama in 2020, and Walker is clearly hoping it will work for him in 2022.

“The beautiful thing for athletes is that they come with so much name ID built in, an audience that isn’t political,” political strategist Amy Koch told Yahoo Sports in April. “They come with devout fans, fans that are excited, middle-of-the-road folks. That’s a huge advantage.”

Before Walker even gets to face Warnock, however, he'll need to win the Republican nomination. Some potential Republican challengers will sit out this election and avoid the Trump bandwagon, but three have already committed. Georgia Agriculture Secretary Gary Black has gone straight at Walker in ads and statements, criticizing him for parachuting into the state for this race alone.

“If my old schoolmate from UGA wants to join the conversation here in Georgia, I welcome hearing his ideas,” Black said in a statement. “But it takes more than pretending to change your car tags. Move here, pay taxes here, register and vote in some elections and learn what Georgians have on their minds.”

Early polling shows Warnock two percentage points ahead of Walker vs. +8 over Black.

Crucial swing voters in Georgia who broke for Biden in 2020 must now decide if they love Walker more than they dislike Trump. Without Trump on the ballot to vote against, Walker's chances improve. But with a 15-month run-up to Election Day 2022, there will be plenty of time for challengers to dig into Walker's record and history.

Herschel Walker, a legend in the state of Georgia, will run for Senate in the state.  (David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Herschel Walker, a legend in the state of Georgia, will run for Senate in the state. (David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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