After a lot of hemming and hawing, complete with name-calling and political barbs, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and the Republican challenging him, former football star Herschel Walker are set to debate on Oct. 14.
The two had been at odds over the debate, including the timing. Walker initially had declined dates for proposed events with a television station in Savannah, at Mercer University in Macon and with the Atlanta Press Club.
Facing mounting pressure to spar with the incumbent, Walker finally settled on the Oct. 14 date with WSAV in Savannah.
It will be Walker’s first debate performance. He did not participate in debates with Republicans he faced leading up to the May Primary Election, a strategy meant to show his strength in the Primary and confidence in taking on Warnock, who was elected in a Special Election in January after narrowly defeating Republican Kelly Loeffler. Warnock’s victory, along with that of Jon Ossoff, delivered for Democrats a split Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote.
Republicans are eyeing Walker’s General Election challenge as part of a broader strategy to regain control of the Senate.
Warnock had accepted all of the first three debate invitations Walker declined.
“Someone had to put an end to Herschel Walker’s games, and today Reverend Warnock showed again why he is the best person for the job, agreeing to Walker’s preferred debate so Georgians would have at least one opportunity to see the clear choice they have in this election,” Warnock campaign manager Quentin Fulks wrote in a statement.
Throughout the past several weeks, both campaigns have sparred over the debate schedule. Warnock’s campaign targeted Walker in a television ad criticizing him for “dodging” debates.
In a tweet, Warnock initially said he would accept the invitation to the Oct. 14 debate if Walker agreed to a second one as well. Warnock appears to have walked back that ultimatum considering Walker did not engage publicly on terms for a second debate.
Some Republicans have expressed concern about Walker’s ability to perform well in a debate setting, according to CNN.
“I think Walker is more likely to win by not debating,” Erick Erickson, a conservative talk radio host based in Georgia, told CNN earlier this year. “God help him against Warnock onstage.”
He faces a number of liabilities on the debate stage, including allegations of false claims about service in law enforcement, questionable business ties and questions about his past academic record.