Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football star pressed into politics by former President Donald J. Trump, won Georgia’s Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, cruising past a crowded field. His victory, called by The Associated Press, sets him up to challenge the Democratic nominee, Senator Raphael Warnock, in November.
With Mr. Trump’s endorsement, Mr. Walker faced five opponents for the nomination — but no real challenge. His closest competitor was Gary Black, the state’s agriculture commissioner. Mr. Walker ran largely on Mr. Trump’s endorsement and his own popularity in the state, which has lingered since he powered the University of Georgia to a national championship in 1980 and then won the Heisman Trophy in 1982.
Though Mr. Black ultimately could not compete, he may have caused trouble for Mr. Walker. He doggedly raised allegations of domestic violence against Mr. Walker, some of which Mr. Walker admitted to and some of which he denied, as well as questions about Mr. Walker’s inflated claims of academic and business achievements.
Mr. Black called the accusations of violent behavior and the mental health struggles that Mr. Walker had admitted to “disqualifying,” and said he could not endorse him in the general election.
Other Republicans in the state have also said Mr. Walker needs a better answer to charges that he threatened to kill himself and his wife, threatened to kill a girlfriend and stalked a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader when he played professional football.
But the Republican electorate appeared comfortable with its choice. At large rallies with Mr. Trump and smaller stump speeches, Mr. Walker was cheered for his displays of humility, his story of transformation from an overweight boy with a speech impediment to a star in football, track and even bobsledding, and his assurances to largely white audiences that racism is overblown.
Mr. Walker is a political newcomer who has never held elective office. But Mr. Warnock, who was the pastor at the same church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, does not have much more experience, with just two years in the Senate. And in what is expected to be a strong year for Republicans, the general election contest between the two could be among the closest, most expensive and most closely watched in the country.
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