On the heels of a dramatic Friday night debate, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock's campaign took aim at his Republican opponent for refusing to commit to facing off again in Atlanta Sunday evening.
"If Herschel Walker can't show up for a debate, he can't be trusted to show up for Georgians in the U.S. Senate."
While Warnock (D-Ga.) and Libertarian Chase Oliver plan to attend the 7:00 pm ET debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club, the controversial Republican candidate, Herschel Walker, has not accepted an invitation.
Warnock's campaign said in a statement Sunday that Walker "denying Georgians multiple opportunities" to see the difference between the candidates reaffirms that "he is not ready to represent the people of Georgia."
"On Friday night, Rev. Warnock showed voters the clear choice Georgians have in this election, and while he will do the same tonight in Atlanta, Herschel Walker won't be there because he's refusing Georgians that opportunity," said Quentin Fulks, the Democrat's campaign manager.
"If Herschel Walker can't show up for a debate," Fulks added, "he can't be trusted to show up for Georgians in the U.S. Senate."
Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Sen. Jon Ossoff both won crucial runoff races last year, giving their party narrow control of the upper chamber. Only Warnock is up for reelection this year. Early voting for next month's midterms begins on Monday in the state.
Recent polling shows Warnock winning over Walker, but in several cases that lead has been within the survey's margin of error. The Georgia race is one of a few—along with contests in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—expected to determine whether Democrats retain Senate control.
Walker and Warnock have so far only debated once—last Friday. During that meeting, the incumbent stressed that his GOP challenger—a former professional football player with a history of domestic violence and a dissociative identity disorder diagnosis—"has a problem with the truth."
Referencing incidents from Walker's past, Warnock said Friday, "One thing I have not done—I've never pretended to be a police officer, and I've never threatened a shootout with the police."
In a move that has since garnered national headlines, Walker insisted on defending his previous claims of a career in law enforcement and took out an honorary badge—prompting an argument with a debate moderator, who stressed that props were not allowed.
Citing Walker campaign spokesperson Will Kiley, The New York Times reported that "the badge was given to him in recognition of community service work he had done with the Cobb County sheriff's department," and he has another from Johnson County, which includes his hometown.
The newspaper noted that representatives for both departments were unavailable to comment but spoke to other state sources who put the honorary badge into context:
"Georgia sheriffs were seriously handing out those badges like candy in a candy dish," J.Tom Morgan, a former district attorney in DeKalb County, Georgia, who was elected as a Democrat, said in an interview on Saturday. "That badge gives you no law enforcement authority. He doesn't have the power to write a traffic ticket."
Mr. Morgan, who is now a professor at Western Carolina University, said the badges became so widely abused that the Georgia Sheriffs' Association curtailed the practice of giving them out.
"What would happen is somebody would get stopped for speeding, and they would whip out one of those badges," he said. "And there were people charged with impersonating a police officer."
Walker was widely ridiculed for the onstage stunt.
Media Matters for America's Matthew Gertz said of the badge-flashing that "Republican leaders are willing to accept dumb antics like this because they know Herschel Walker will be a vote for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and banning abortion nationwide."
An ex-girlfriend recently claimed that Walker reimbursed her for an abortion he encouraged her to have—providing The Daily Beast with a clinic receipt, a "get well" card from the anti-choice candidate, and a bank deposit slip. She then told the Times that he unsuccessfully pressured her to terminate a second pregnancy, resulting in a now-10-year-old son.
Walker declined to comment on the Times report but has repeatedly denied that he paid for the woman's abortion, calling it "a lie" at the debate. In contrast with previous comments on the topic, Walker also claimed Friday he does not back a federal ban on abortion and instead supports Georgia's law that prohibits terminating a pregnancy after around six weeks, with limited exceptions.
Since Friday, Warnock's campaign and supporters of the Democrat have highlighted various moments from the debate, from the badge incident to the Democrat's comments in support of abortion rights.
Walker, while addressing his opposition to federal legislation capping the cost of insulin, said Friday that "I believe in reducing insulin, but at the same time, you gotta eat right... Unless you have eating right, insulin is doing you no good."
Some critics of Walker noted that while diet and exercise may help some people prevent Type 2 diabetes, there are no known ways to prevent Type 1 diabetes, and those with it must take insulin daily to survive.
Meanwhile, Warnock argued that Georgia should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and "needs a senator who believes, like I do, that healthcare is a human right."