Election 2022

Herschel Walker’s final argument in Senate runoff is an attack on trans rights

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Herschel Walker and Riley GainesPhoto: Screenshot

As his runoff election next week approaches, former NFL player and Georgia GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s closing argument is focusing on his opposition to transgender rights.

While his opponent, Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), is focusing on Walker’s “character and competence” in the final week of the campaign before December 6’s runoff election, Walker’s ads feature cisgender former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied for fifth with a transgender woman in a swimming competition.

In the ad, Gaines said that she “worked so hard” at competitive swimming but she was “forced to compete against a biological male.” She is referring to University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who she tied with. Gaines lost to four other cisgender women in the 200-yard freestyle in that swim competition, but she doesn’t mention that in Walker’s ad.

“That’s unfair and wrong,” Walker says. “Warnock’s afraid to stand up to a female athletes [sic].”

A message on the screen says, “Raphael Warnock voted to allow biological men to compete in women’s sports.” It’s unclear what the ad is referring to; the U.S. Senate has not voted on any bill related to transgender people participating in school sports since Warnock has been in office. It’s uncertain that the issue – primarily controlled by state governments, sports organizations, and school districts – will come before the U.S. Senate in the next six years.

“Herschel Walker stands up for what’s right,” Gaines says.

An unnamed Walker campaign official told Axios that their goal is to motivate the GOP base to get to the polls next week. They believe that attacking transgender people will motivate their voters and that Walker’s past as a professional athlete gives him “credibility” on the issue even though he’s a cisgender man opposing transgender girls’ rights to an equal education.

This is far from the first time that Walker has attacked transgender people in his campaign. Last month he said he doesn’t even know what a pronoun is while mocking transgender people serving in the military (Walker has never served in the military).

“I’ll tell you the definition of a man and a woman, because it’s in the Bible,” he said. “A man and a woman are two different people,” adding that men can’t get pregnant.

“Pronouns? What’s a pronoun? I can tell you, a grenade don’t care about their pronouns,” he said.

Warnock is trying to get GOP cross-over and split-ticket voters to vote for him in the runoff election by appealing to non-policy issues like Walker’s character. Walker has been accused of threatening multiple women he has been in relationships with, his gay son Christian Walker said that he and his mother had to move six times to escape Walker’s violence, and at least two women have said that Walker paid for or pressured them to get abortions even though he is running on an anti-abortion platform.

Walker has said that all the new accusations from this year are lies. He has not denied abusing his ex-wife Cynthia Grossman – who said that he threatened to kill her – claiming he doesn’t remember hurting her.

I know that there are partisan differences, and they are real, but when you consider my opponent, this is not about Democrat and Republican,” Warnock said earlier this week. “This is about right and wrong. And Herschel Walker is wrong for Georgia.”

Gaines has appeared in ads for several Republicans this year, telling her story of tying for fifth place with Thomas in several states, which she has described as “heartbreaking and somber.”

“I touched the wall and saw that there was a five by my name, indicating that I got fifth, but the first thing I really looked at was who won because I was so curious who would win the race,” Gaines told Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) earlier this year. “Because, the night before, Lia won the 500-meter. So, more interested than my own self, I was interested in who won. I looked up and I also saw a number five by Lia’s name so in that moment I realized we tied.”

“It was a flood of emotions, really. I was extremely happy for the girls above me who conquered what was seemingly impossible by beating Lia, and it was kind of an array of emotions. I was shocked, really.”

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