Former University of Georgia and NFL running back Herschel Walker filed to run for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, making him the highest-profile Republican to jump into the race against incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock.
Walker’s campaign filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday. He’s untested politically, but enters the race with nearly universal name recognition in Georgia, where he won the 1982 Heisman Trophy as a running back for the University of Georgia.
“I’m a conservative not because someone told me to be. I’m a conservative because I believe in smaller government, a strong military, personal responsibility and making sure all people have an opportunity to pursue their dreams,” Walker said Wednesday in a video announcing his campaign. “I’m a kid from a small town in Georgia who has lived the American Dream and I’m ready to fight to keep that dream alive for you too.”
Former President Trump, who has known Walker for decades, and some of his allies urged Walker to enter the race.
“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the legendary Herschel Walker ran for the United States Senate in Georgia? He would be unstoppable,” Mr. Trump said in a statement in March. A video posted to Instagram by Donald Trump Jr. in June showed Walker at an event with the former president.
Walker has been living in Texas, but state records show that he recently registered to vote in Georgia.
Three other Republicans are already running for the chance to unseat Warnock next November: Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, veteran Kelvin King and former Navy SEAL and Trump administration official Latham Saddler. Black released an ad earlier this month jabbing Walker over his residency.
“Herschel, welcome back to Georgia. Welcome to the U.S. Senate race,” Black said in a video statement on Tuesday.
Some other top Georgia Republicans have passed on the Senate bid, including former Senator David Perdue and former Congressman Doug Collins. Congressman Buddy Carter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July that he was considering a Senate bid, but would not run if Walker entered the race.
An Associated Press story earlier this summer detailed a turbulent history that Walker will likely have to confront during his campaign. Walker has been open about his struggles with mental illness and dissociative identity disorder.
In an interview for that Associated Press story, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said Walker could “bring a lot of things to the table,” but acknowledged “there’s a lot of questions out there.”
State election officials recently opened an investigation into Walker’s wife’s residency, according to a case sheet obtained by CBS News. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported earlier this month that Julie Blanchard, who was living in Texas, had requested that a Georgia ballot be sent to her home in Westlake, Texas, and she voted in the presidential election as a Georgia resident.
Georgia will be one of the top Senate targets for Republicans in 2022 as they try to reclaim the majority in the Senate. Warnock is a prolific fundraiser and ended last quarter with a $10.5 million warchest to defend his seat. Cook Political Report rates the race “lean Democrat.”
Warnock and fellow Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff both won hotly contested runoff elections in January to give Democrats the Senate majority.