Georgia Senate candidates clash on debate stage during their only face-off ahead of midterms

The Georgia senate race is on Nov. 8 but if neither candidate gets 50% of the vote it will go to a runoff

A first and final face-off between Georgia Senate candidates Friday night ended with each man hoping it was enough to bring undecided voters into their corners to avoid a runoff. 

The long-awaited debate between Sen. Raphael Warnock and former professional football star Herschel Walker touched on a wide range of issues, including inflation – the top issue for Georgia voters at 25%, according to the latest Fox News Poll.

Warnock said, "[Walker] said he would not have voted for the Inflation Reduction Act and I think he should tell the people of Georgia why he thinks they should have expensive insulin and why the pharmaceutical companies should be able to charge us whatever they like." Walker bit back quickly, saying, "I believe in reducing insulin, but at the same time, you've got to eat, right?" He then said, "you have to get food prices down and you've got to get gas down, so they can go get insulin."

In perhaps one of the most unusual moments of the night, Walker pulled out a prop when his opponent brought up a controversy that surfaced early on in the campaign. Warnock said, "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." 


Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign stop at Battle Lumber Co. on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Wadley, Georgia.

Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign stop at Battle Lumber Co. on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Wadley, Georgia. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Moments later, Walker pulled out a badge, presumably linked to his claims of being an honorary deputy with law enforcement, only to be stopped and told off by the moderator. She interrupted the Republican and said over him, "Mr. Walker, you are very well aware of the rules tonight. And you have a prop and that is not allowed."

Allegations of Walker lying about his involvement with law enforcement is just one of a series of setbacks that has plagued the race. Walker’s own son attacked the Republican on Twitter, saying in part, "You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence." 

The shocking comments came after a bombshell report that claimed Walker paid a woman in 2009 to have an abortion. The latest controversy came up in Friday’s debate, where Walker repeated that the claim is a "lie" and that he would be "a Senator that protects life."

When asked about his abortion views, Senator Warnock said he believes "a patient's room is too narrow and small, cramped, a space for a woman, her doctor and the United States government." 


Meantime, recent criticism of the first-term Senator relating to his position as senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta became a topic on the debate stage. A downtown Atlanta apartment complex mostly owned by the church has reportedly moved to evict some of its residents, while Warnock receives a monthly housing stipend. The housing is known as a place for the "chronically homeless" and those struggling with mental health.

Eight residents at Colombia Tower have been given eviction notices since 2020 for owing an average of $125 in rent while Warnock has been getting a $7,417 monthly housing stipend from the church. 

When Walker said during the face-off that tenants are currently being evicted, Warnock jumped in, saying, "we have not evicted those people." He also called out Walker for those allegations, calling him desperate. "Anytime a candidate would stoop to the level of trying to sully the name… of Martin Luther King Junior's church and John Lewis' church, you know, that's a desperate candidate," said Warnock.


Despite the recent controversies for both candidates, Georgia voters appear to be unmoved. The latest Fox News poll released in late September has Warnock with 46% while Walker trails at 41%. But the numbers remain virtually unchanged from July, where Warnock kept 46% and Walker came in at 42%. The change is insignificant with the poll’s margin of error coming in at +-3. 

With 13% of Georgia voters undecided, Friday’s debate was a high-stakes opportunity for both candidates to try and round up more supporters to avoid a runoff. 

When each man was asked about the 2024 elections, the responses were starkly contrasting. Warnock appeared to dodge the question on whether he would support President Biden if he ran in 2024, saying, "I have not spent a minute thinking about what politicians should run for what in 2024… The people of Georgia hired me to represent them regardless of who's in the White House."

Meantime, Walker made no hesitation when saying he would support former President Trump if he ran in 2024. He also said, "President Trump, as my friend has nothing to do with, has nothing to do with that he's my friend. I won't leave my allies, which is what Senator Warnock and Joe Biden did in Afghanistan."

It’s a theme Walker seemed to keep during the hour-long debate: tying Warnock to Biden, saying, "[Warnock] said he was going to Washington to represent Georgia. He went to Washington to represent Joe Biden. That's the reason we're in the mess we're in today." But the senator made it clear on stage, "I think this race is about who is ready to represent the people of Georgia. And I'm thinking about them every single day."

The latest Fox News Power Ranking has the race as one of four toss-up Senate races, meaning it has the potential to bring the nation to a repeat of 2020 election when Georgia’s two Senate seats determined which party held the majority in the chamber. 

Fox News Power Rankings indicating the political leanings of the states for the Senate. Democrats lean 2, 1 likely, and 8 solid. GOP lean 4, 2 likely, and 14 solid. Toss up at 4.

Fox News Power Rankings indicating the political leanings of the states for the Senate. Democrats lean 2, 1 likely, and 8 solid. GOP lean 4, 2 likely, and 14 solid. Toss up at 4. (Fox News)

While the Walker campaign didn’t put out a statement immediately after the debate, the Georgia Republican Party did. Chairman David Shafer said, "Herschel Walker is a fighter, and soon, he will fight to right the wrongs of Warnock and Biden’s Democrat Party in the United States Senate."

Meantime, the campaign manager for Warnock, Quentin Fulks, released a statement saying it’s clear the Senator won tonight’s debate and that "Herschel Walker offered no solutions, lied, and proved once again that he isn’t ready to represent Georgians."


Notably, Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who is running in his own re-election, has not joined Walker on the campaign trail. However, a campaign spokesperson says the Governor will vote for every fellow Republican on the ticket. In a statement to Fox, Tate Mitchell says the Governor "has repeatedly stated he supports and will vote for the entire Republican ticket." Mitchell goes on to say Kemp and his campaign are extremely focused on "building the resources, ground game, and grassroots support necessary to ensure a victory for Republican candidates up and down the ballot."

Claudia Kelly-Bazan is a Fox News field producer based in Atlanta.