By REBECCA GRAPEVINE
ATLANTA — Former University of Georgia football champion Herschel Walker added another victory to his win column Tuesday when he beat five other candidates for the Republican nomination for a Georgia U.S. Senate seat.
Walker earned 68.2% of the vote in Republican primary, with about 97% of votes counted as of 1:00 p.m. Wednesday. Walker will now face off against current U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock in November.
Walker soundly defeated his five opponents in the Republican primary. Current Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture, Gary Black, was the next highest vote-getter with 13.4% of the almost 1.2 million votes cast in the Republican race.
Latham Saddler, an Atlanta banking executive and former Navy SEAL, received 8.8% of the vote.
Josh Clark, a former state representative from Flowery Branch, earned 4% of votes cast.
Kelvin King, a small business owner and Air Force veteran from Atlanta who is, like Walker and Warnock, African American, pulled 3.2% of the vote.
And retired Brig. Gen. Jonathan McColumn of Warner Robins finished with 2.4% of votes cast.
Though Walker is a newcomer to the state's political playing field, his large fan following and former President Donald Trump's endorsement propelled him to victory.
The Heisman Trophy winner decided to run for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Raphael Warnock last August after Trump spent weeks touting Walker as a candidate.
“Herschel is tough on crime and borders, and he will always stand in support of law enforcement, military and our vets,” the former president said at the start Walker’s campaign. “He will fight hard for our Second Amendment and voter integrity."
Walker shied away from media questions until the very last moment, taking questions only in the last week before voting while rarely appearing at public rallies.
Walker refused to participate in a debate among the Republican Senate primary candidates, leaving his opponents to debate an empty podium.
“If Herschel Walker can’t get up here, he certainly can’t beat Raphael Warnock in November,” Latham Saddler, said earlier this month.
That concern apparently did not deter Republican voters from endorsing the former star, who also had the support of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.
Walker will need to overcome a number of other liabilities in his upcoming race against incumbent Warnock
Though Walker was born and raised in Georgia, he has lived in Texas for decades. He only registered to vote in Georgia last August.
Walker may also face difficulties due to his struggles with mental illness, especially dissociative identity disorder, which he wrote about in a 2008 memoir, Breaking Free.
And he has faced allegations of domestic violence.
A recent investigation revealed problems with Walker’s work for Patriot Support, an organization that claimed to help veterans with mental health concern. Patriot Support is not a charity but a for-profit organization and Walker overstated his role, the Associated Press reported last week.
On policy, Walker’s campaign website says he embraces a “compassionate conservative” agenda. He supports a total ban of abortion even in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
Walker wants to secure the southern border, make America energy independent, confirm judges who will protect the right to bear arms, and fight for “more free-market capitalism,” according to his website.
Warnock handily beat his sole Democratic primary opponent Tamara Johnson-Sealey with 96% of the approximately 715,000 votes cast in the race.
The results of Warnock and Walker’s contest in November could determine which party controls the Senate.