Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat representing Georgia, has doubled down on anti-LGBTQ attacks ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff election against incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Walker, who frequently went on stream-of-consciousness rants about various topics, including LGBTQ rights, on the campaign trail prior to the Nov. 8 general election, appears to be “leaning in” to culture war issues ahead of the runoff, focusing on issues where they believe Democrats are out-of-step with the majority of Americans.
In the weeks since Nov. 8, Walker has begun airing an ad, featuring University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who competed against transgender NCAA Division I champion Lia Thomas and has been critical of transgender participation in women’s sports. While Gaines doesn’t name Thomas in the ad, she says: “My senior year, I was forced to compete against a biological male.”
She and Walker attack Warnock for voting “to allow biological men to compete in women’s college sports,” a reference to a vote by Democrats to block an amendment, sponsored by Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, that sought to ban transgender athletes from competing in athletics based on their gender identity.
The amendment, which Tuberville sought to attach to a COVID-19 relief bill, served two purposes: forcing Democrats, especially vulnerable ones from swing states, to go on record as blocking the amendment — thereby allowing Republicans to attack them for not pushing for a ban on transgender participation; and attempting to derail the overall COVID relief bill by weighing it down with various amendments having nothing to do with COVID, school re-openings, or providing support for small businesses that were forced to close or reduce hours due to pandemic-related closures.
“Warnock’s afraid to stand up for female athletes,” Walker says in the ad, while Gaines chimes in: “Herschel Walker stands up for what’s right.”
As the female-centric news and commentary website Jezebel notes, Walker previously campaigned with Gaines in September, suggesting at a rally that transgender children may not go to heaven after they die, because “Jesus may not recognize [them].”
The day after the mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs — in which five people, including two transgender individuals, were killed — Walker went on another unhinged rant about transgender issues and gender, alleging that Democrats “don’t know the definition of a woman,” for which he relies on Biblical texts, before segueing into complaining about transgender participation in sports, and then quickly onto musings about whether a man can get pregnant, accusing liberals of “lying,” and asserting: “We’re in a mess because we put weak leaders in Washington. Weak leaders in Washington that not representing us.”
Walker, who has previously expressed his personal opposition to same-sex marriage, has also appeared on the campaign trail with North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican best known for his own rants against the LGBTQ community.
Robinson’s most well-publicized comments are those in which he claimed gay people do not serve “any purpose” in society, comparing being gay to cow feces, maggots and flies during a sermon he gave at a church.
He has also claimed that homosexuality is a “tool of the devil to continue to divide us and lead us into immorality,” and has urged social conservatives to push back against LGBTQ acceptance based on their religious opposition to homosexuality, likening debates over LGBTQ rights to a “war” over religious freedom. He has said straight couples are “superior” to gay couples because of their ability to procreate.
Robinson has also called homosexuality and transgender identity “filth” and “garbage” when arguing that neither should be broached in schools, whether in curriculum or simply in books available for reading in the school library. He has accused the LGBTQ movement of seeking to “indoctrinate” youth, both in schools and through TV and other forms of media, into accepting LGBTQ identity as normal. Those comments led many LGBTQ organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, to call for his resignation.
Robinson has since defended his remarks, claiming that the Left is misrepresenting his position in order to muddy the debate over LGBTQ visibility in schools.
“I will fight for and protect the rights of all citizens, including those in the LGBTQ community to express themselves however they want,” Robinson said in a Facebook video. “However, the idea that our children should be taught about concepts of transgenderism and be exposed to sexually explicit materials in the classroom is abhorrent.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, has replied that Walker’s reliance on “culture war” issues — which were plentiful, but largely unsuccessful in the Nov. 8 midterm elections — shows he is desperate, pointing to a recent poll by the retiree advocacy organization AARP that shows him trailing Warnock by 4 points in the runoff election.
The poll referenced by HRC shows Warnock leading Walker by 24 percentage points among voters aged 18-49, while Walker leads by nine points among voters 50 and older. Warnock leads the poll of all age groups by 4 percentage points, despite voters aged 50 and older constituting more than 60% of all runoff voters, and 90% of that group claiming they are “extremely motivated” to vote.
HRC predicts that Warnock will ultimately prevail over Walker, something they attribute to a group they call “Equality Voters” — LGBTQ voters and allies who support LGBTQ rights — who, according to HRC’s post-election analysis, comprised 27% of the electorate in the Nov. 8 election, and who typically tend to be younger and more racially diverse than the overall Georgia electorate.
“Voters repudiated this extremism in the midterm elections, yet Herschel Walker has decided to once again seize on an anti-transgender strategy, making a final pitch to dangerously rile up extremist voters in his base and get them to the polls by attacking transgender youth and spreading misinformation,” Geoff Westrosky, the national campaign director for HRC, said in a statement denouncing Walker’s embrace of anti-LGBTQ talking points. “But here’s the thing: this strategy did not work in the midterms and it won’t work in the Georgia run-off.”
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