Herschel Walker secured the GOP nomination for U.S. senator Tuesday, setting up a race with Sen. Raphael Warnock. Credit: Georgia Recorder

Football star-turned politician Herschel Walker has fought off a crowded field of Republican competition and secured a spot in the general election against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in November.

This story also appeared in Georgia Recorder

The Associated Press projected Walker would be the winner about an hour after polls closed. With just under a quarter of the votes tallied Tuesday night, Walker had just under 70% of the vote with his closest competitor and repeat winner of statewide races, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, trailing with 14%.

Walker enjoyed high name recognition among Georgians thanks to his time at the University of Georgia, and his frequent appearances at former President Donald Trump’s side at rallies and events further endeared him to conservatives in the state.

“Herschel Walker will never let you down,” Trump said in a Monday statement. “He was a great football player and will be an even better U.S. Senator—if that is even possible.”

It was at Trump’s urging that Walker, who long lived in Texas, entered the race, largely in response to his unfounded belief that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.

The race is likely to be vicious and expensive. Warnock, along with fellow Democratic Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff, were responsible for handing their party control of the Senate when they won a pair of nail-biting runoffs in 2020.

Warnock is back on the ballot two years later because he was elected to finish the term of the late Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired because of his health. Republicans are eager to get the seat back, and many are celebrating Walker’s prospects.

“With his courage and authenticity, he can defeat ‘activist preacher’ Raphael Warnock, who opposes any limits whatsoever on abortion up to birth – even infanticide – and is radically out of step with Georgians,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the conservative SBA List Candidate Fund political action group.

But some Republicans say they worry Walker’s lack of political experience and elements of his past could harm his image in a general election where he will be speaking to a more moderate audience. That past includes allegations of domestic violence and questions about his honesty regarding his business and educational accomplishments. Walker has spoken openly about his diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.

Days before the election, an Associated Press investigation raised scrutiny about a program to benefit veterans that Walker once claimed to have founded. In reality, Walker was a spokesman for the group, which the investigation indicates took advantage of veterans for profit.

Walker will enter the next phase of his campaign with just over $7 million, according to FEC filings, but Warnock will bring nearly $23 million to the race.

A memo released by Warnock campaign indicates that the senator will seek to highlight his past efforts, including to reduce prices for goods like insulin and gasoline, and allow Georgians to contrast him with Walker.

“While Rev. Warnock continues to do the job for all Georgians, Walker has quickly shown Georgians he’s not ready to be a U.S. senator,” campaign manager Quentin Fulks said in a statement. “As the election continues, our campaign remains confident that when faced with the choice between Rev. Warnock and Walker, Georgians will choose to send Rev. Warnock back to Washington to continue working for them.”

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business...