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In Georgia Senate race, Walker and Warnock engage in debate over debates

<i>Getty Images</i><br/>Herschel Walker
Getty Images
Herschel Walker

By Michael Warren and Eva McKend, CNN

Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee from Georgia, said this week that he has accepted an invitation to debate his Democratic rival, Sen. Raphael Warnock, in October.

Speaking to Fox’s Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, Walker said he has agreed to a televised debate in Savannah, Warnock’s hometown. Notably, that event is not one of the three debates Warnock has said he has agreed to attend.

“I have accepted a debate in Savannah, Georgia, in his backyard, that we can debate October the 14th, in front of a crowd, that it’ll be his people, because we’re in his backyard,” Walker said. “This debate is going to be about the people. It’s not about some political party. It’s not about the press.”

The Walker campaign told CNN the proposed event would be sponsored by local TV station WSAV and broadcast on other stations in markets across Georgia. Mallory Blount, a campaign spokeswoman, did not respond to questions about whether Walker would agree to any other debates.

The Warnock campaign, meanwhile, did not directly respond to whether the Democratic incumbent would attend the WSAV debate.

“Two months ago, Reverend 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 Reverend Warnock anywhere, anytime,” said Quentin Fulks, Warnock’s campaign manager. “Nothing has changed. Reverend Warnock remains committed to debating Herschel Walker and giving Georgians three opportunities to see the clear choice about who is ready to represent Georgia.”

Walker has faced increasing pressure in recent weeks to agree to debate his opponent, including ads from Warnock’s campaign accusing the Republican of “dodging” three debates.

The pressure on Walker has come not just from Warnock. Fox’s Brian Kilmeade asked the GOP nominee last week why he had not committed to debating Warnock.

“Sen. Warnock has nothing else to talk about,” Walker said. “I’m ready to debate him, any time, any day. I just want to make it for the fans, not about a political party or about some media, and all he’s doing is talking. I want to make it a fair and equitable debate for the people.”

The Georgia Senate race is one of the most high-profile elections of the upcoming midterms, and the state remains sharply divided. Democrats like Warnock and President Joe Biden won statewide in the last cycle after years of GOP dominance, but the governor’s mansion and state legislature are still controlled by Republicans. A recent Fox News poll of registered voters found Warnock with 46% support to Walker’s 42%, while the same survey put Republican incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp at 47% against Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams at 44%.

Republicans in Georgia — many of whom have expressed concern over Walker’s liabilities as a candidate — say the first-time candidate would be better served by not facing Warnock in a public debate format. Walker easily won his May 24 primary without having to debate any of his GOP opponents.

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