(NewsNation) — Georgia Senate candidates Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock are slated to square off in a highly anticipated debate Friday night in Savannah amid a race that polls predict will be very tight.
Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, holds a slight two-point lead over the Republican Walker, according to a recent poll by Emerson College and The Hill. Friday night’s debate could further swing the election in Warnock’s favor or be a boon for the enigmatic Walker.
Here is who both candidates are and what got them to where they are today.
From living in public housing on the streets of Savannah, to becoming a U.S. senator, Warnock’s road to Washington stands out.
A preacher turned politician, Warnock honed his public speaking skills each Sunday as senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s former congregation.
“My whole life has been committed to service,” Warnock said.
Warnock’s 2021 Senate runoff victory grabbed national attention and handed Democrats control of the upper chamber, a win for Warnock and President Joe Biden’s agenda in Washington.
Now he’s facing a challenge holding on to that post. For the first time in history of the Deep South state, voters are selecting between two black candidates to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate.
Warnock was on the campaign trail this week with events focused on women voters and Latino voters, such as an event Wednesday in an Atlanta suburb. He spoke on issues of abortion, immigration and health care.
“Let everybody know that what we did last time we must do again for all of Georgia,” Warnock said.
While Walker faces controversies, Warnock is still haunted by some of his own. That includes the 2020 release of body camera footage showing police responding to an allegation from Warnock’s ex-wife that he ran over her foot.
Medical examiners saw no signs her foot had been run over. The two are also involved in an ongoing child support dispute.
The incumbent senator responded to Republicans’ latest attacks focused on his past, saying, “We saw these kinds of attacks before — there’s a reason why they didn’t work. I think at the end of the day, this race is about who is ready for Georgia, and the contrast between me and my opponent couldn’t be more obvious. And I think in the days ahead that will become increasingly clear.”
Herschel Walker is no stranger to competition. A prolific athlete who had a standout career at the University of Georgia, he was both a track and football star.
Best known for dominating on the gridiron as a running back, he went on to win the coveted 1982 Heisman Trophy before heading off to the fledgling United States Football League, and later the NFL. Then it was MMA fighting, where he went 2-0.
They’ll do whatever it takes, they’ll say whatever they’ll say because they want this seat,” Walker said. “But I don’t think they know they woke up a bear.”
But now, this former Bulldog is in one of his toughest fights yet, squaring off against Warnock for a U.S. Senate seat.
“I’ve always liked Herschel,” said Georgia voter Brown Moseley. “He needs pictures of him wearing No. 34 in the red jersey.”
Moseley is casting his vote for Walker and says with the current state of the economy, he wants new representation in Washington.
“Price of gas, inflation, crazy Democrat agenda, that’s what’s on my mind,” Moseley said.
For Stuart Griffin, it’s the same story. And the stakes are high.
It’s hard to make ends meet. If something’s not done, we’re gonna be out of business,” Griffin said.
But Walker has come under fire in recent weeks after allegations he paid for his ex-girlfriends abortion in 2009, despite being a self-professed devout Christian and running as a pro-life candidate. He has repeatedly denied the accusations. Even so, his son, Christian Walker, has taken to social media to denounce his father.
“Family values people? He has four kids with four different women, and he wasn’t in the house to raise one of them,” Christian Walker said.
But for Republican voters like Gary Breedlove, the controversies don’t matter.
“It would be a resume item for a Democratic candidate, but for a Republican, it’s like ‘oh my gosh he paid for somebody to have an abortion.’ That doesn’t matter, we need a conservative voice,” Breedlove said.