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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: herschel walker

In Georgia Runoff It's Loud, Visible Democrats Versus Quiet, Covert Republicans

The margins are razor-thin in Georgia’s Senate runoff that ends on December 7, according to interviews with dozens of party insiders, grassroot organizers, and voters at polls and rallies across the state during the past week.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, appeared to lead as early voting concluded on Friday – a sentiment affirmed by CNN’s latest poll, which reached voters from Thanksgiving weekend through last Tuesday. But Republicans say that their base prefers voting in person at local precincts on Election Day, fueling their hope hat a surge will elect Herschel Walker, the Georgia football star whose Republican candidacy was propelled by Donald Trump.

As early voting closed, 1.83 million Georgians had voted in person or returned mailed-out ballots, according to the secretary of state’s office. While daily turnout broke records, including 350,000 votes cast on Friday, only 26 percent of Georgians with active voter registrations have voted so far. In contrast, during 2020’s runoffs when control of the Senate was at stake, about 4.5 million votes were cast.

In many respects, both parties are reverting to core values and loyalties to bring out voters. At Walker’s rallies this week, he presented himself as a man who has been redeemed by Christianity and, if elected, would oppose the "evil" policies put forth by Democrats and the Biden administration.

Such religious and party orthodoxies were well-received by his supporters, who, in interviews after a Walker rally, mentioned that Trump’s offensive behavior did not stop the former president from enacting policies they approved. And, of course, Walker’s status as a football legend and “good old boy” was appealing.

“Everybody in Georgia loves Herschel. You should have seen that boy run,” said Fran, a retired furniture store owner, who declined to give her last name while attending a Walker rally on Monday in Toccoa, in the state’s northeast corner.

Interviews with voters in Republican strongholds, such as Hall County north of Atlanta, suggested that party loyalty – including the last-minute endorsement of Walker by Gov. Brian Kemp, the state’s top-ranking Republican, who did not back Walker in the primary election, will push party faithful to vote on Tuesday.

“I do think it will have some influence on people,” Sloane Mattadeen, who serves in the U.S. Navy, said after voting. “I think there is some authority there.”

On the other hand, Walker has an uphill climb. He received 200,000 votes less than Kemp in the general election and was 38,000 votes behind Warnock out of nearly 4 million votes cast statewide. What makes Democrats nervous is that Walker’s campaign has been eerily quiet in all but the state’s remote regions.

“They ran a quiet, very covert campaign this entire midterm,” said a Democratic congressional staffer who asked not to be named. “You didn’t see Kemp. If it was not for Donald Trump and his big mouth, you may not even know what was going on with Herschel Walker. You don’t see them when they come for fundraisers… The Republicans are making phone calls, but it is not overt at all.”

The GOP’s latest lawn signs do not mention Walker’s name; they just urge people to vote Republican. Typically, one usually sees one or two lawn signs for Walker, which contrasts with a half-dozen or more signs for Warnock on busy streets.

A former state government press aide who recently took a private sector job said that many of Georgia’s Republican leaders are tired of all things Trump, including his hand-picked candidates like Walker. That partly accounts for the lower-profile messaging, he said, adding that the GOP base understands Kemp’s signals.

Whether that comment applies equally to men and women is another variable. As of Friday morning, about 10 percent more women had voted compared to men, the secretary of state's office reported. (Academic experts said that split was normal in Georgia elections.)

Walker’s anti-abortion stance, despite his history of previously paying for abortions and of domestic abuse, both of which Democrats have publicized, was downplayed by several women who said they had just voted for Walker. Other voters, women and men who said they were voting for Warnock, said that Walker’s character was deeply flawed. Black voters went further and said that his candidacy was perpetuating ugly stereotypes about Black men that they have worked for years to overcome.

More Visible Democrats

In contrast, the Warnock campaign and many get-out-the-vote efforts addressing constituencies likely to support him have been highly visible and vocal. Groups that barely existed a few years ago have been conducting voter drives as part of longer-term efforts to empower their communities.

In a warehouse district north of Atlanta on Friday, three dozen volunteers – mostly young women wearing black sweatshirts saying “Go VOTA” – assembled for a car caravan through nearby neighborhoods to urge Latina women to vote. They also planned to knock on 1,000 doors. Organizers from seven groups behind this effort said they already had made more than 90,000 phone calls to voters.

There are grassroot efforts like this across the state. By Friday morning, more than 800,000 white voters had cast ballots, 477,000 Black voters had cast ballots and 24,000 Hispanic voters had cast ballots, the state data hub reported. While the Hispanic numbers were low compared to other groups, this voter drive’s organizers said their voters could make a difference if margins are close.

“I was born in Georgia and raised in Gwinnett County, a lovely multicultural, multi-lingual community,” said Leslie Palomino, senior canvass lead for Georgia at PoderLatinx. “Growing up in a mixed-status family led me, the middle child in a household of five, to become the first eligible voter. Today, I’ll be casting my vote alongside my sister, Kimberly Palomino. Latinas are a powerful force and today we make our voice heard.”

A few minutes later, Palomino and a caravan of flag-waving, horn-honking volunteers left to visit one early voting site and then rouse voters. There was no comparable effort from Republicans anywhere in sight.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Grassroots Organizers Mobilize Infrequent Rural Voters In Georgia Runoff

ANDERSONVILLE, GEORGIA. – Late Tuesday afternoon, there were more barking dogs than people to be seen among the weathered homes on the outskirts of Andersonville, a small town in southwest Georgia known for its infamous Civil War prison.

But the quiet did not stop Tammye Pettyjohn Jones, who chairs Sisters in Service of Southwest Georgia and works with many local non-profit groups, and a caravan of like-minded community activists, from seeking Black voters to remind them of the U.S. Senate runoff and urge them to vote.

A motorcade, led by Jones driving an eye-catching Black Voters Matter van whose sides were printed with scenes from the last century’s Civil Rights Movement [AI1] and new slogans such as “WE WON’T BLACK DOWN… cuz freedom is our birthright!” pulled off the road in front of every cluster of homes. At a set of old duplexes, the smell of a leaking gas pipeline hung in the air – a health and environmental hazard.

Undeterred, teams of women who have lived for decades in the area fanned out with voter guides, cards reminding voters that a U.S. senator could help disadvantaged people and lawn signs saying Black people have power. Jennifer Watts, a Sumter County public defender dressed in a crisp white jacket, saw an elderly man at his door and started talking as she walked over. Charlie Hill stepped onto his porch.

“Early voting has started. It started Monday. It goes through Friday,” Watts said. “You can go to Americus to vote early, or you can wait until the actual Election Day, December 6.”

Hill said little more than “Okay.”

“We’re out telling you about this election and making sure everyone is registered,” Watts continued. “Are you registered?”

He nodded and then saw that his cousin, Nanette Hill, was among a handful of women handing out the information. Then he started talking and joking.

“So, you’re related to Kurt and all of those?” Watts asked. “Well, tell your family and friends about the voting.”

“We’re doing it,” he replied, sounding like he would vote in the runoff.

Across Georgia, the candidates, incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Herschel Walker, a Georgia football legend and Republican, and their parties are spending millions on a final round of messaging that smacks their opponent. The runoff was triggered because no candidate won more than 50 percent in the general election. With nearly four million votes cast, Warnock led Walker by only 37,000 votes, elevating the importance of turnout in across rural Georgia. The state has 159 counties, of which perhaps 100 are outside of its metro areas.

The mission and messaging exemplified by Jones’ team is different. They and other civic groups throughout the state hope to engage registered-but-reluctant voters by outreach that emphasizes personal ties, local concerns, and solutions. In the short run, the activists are focused on the runoff. Their long-term goal is engaging voters to make conservative-led counties more representative.

“It is especially important to empower these Black Belt counties and for minority voters in these ruby red counties to know that their votes do matter,” said Ray McClendon, NAACP Atlanta political action chair. “If we can pick up 1,000 votes in this county and 1,500 votes in another county, although it will look like it’s Fulton or DeKalb [counties in metro Atlanta] that put [a winner] over the top, it really is the aggregation of these counties that went from ruby red to purple that made the difference.”

But it all hinges on convincing more people that voting matters.

“The dogs keep on barking, and they just keep on talking,” said Jones, smiling at the canvassers. Jones, a Tuskegee University graduate, and chemical engineer, is overseeing voter outreach in several counties centered around the small city of Americus, near Plains, where former President Jimmy Carter lives.

As the twilight deepened and a half-dozen lawn signs saying, “Black Voters Matter,” “Vote Today” and “It’s about us,” were planted in a town that was the site of the Confederacy’s most notorious Civil War prison and later home to a national cemetery, Jones yelled, “Let’s go. The sun is going down.”

Why Rural Organizing Is Different

One fifth of Georgia’s voters live in its rural areas. Jones explained why rural organizing is different than in metro areas. To start, people are spread out over large areas, and it takes time to visit them. Many rural voters also do not have access to the same media and information sources as voters in metro areas.

In much of southwest Georgia, there are no local TV news departments or daily newspapers, Jones explained. The Internet is spotty. Not every home has cable TV. Those factors elevate the role of attention-grabbing efforts like motorcades and knowing how to engage voters.

“The main message is to let our rural people know there is a runoff,” she said.

Jones, like many organizers, is running phone banks and help hotlines. She also has created events, like a basketball tournament on Saturday, December 3, where everyone who shows up will first hear a brief presentation on how and where to vote. They will get shirts printed with a QR code that takes viewers to an online “Georgia Runoff Voter Guide.” The multilingual guide has information on local voting options, locations, hours and a summary of the candidates’ positions.

Behind these visible efforts are data-driven analyses to pinpoint pockets of unengaged voters and digital tools that make it easier for voters to register and get a ballot into their hands.

“We’re targeting them based on data,” Jones said. “We had to comb through a lot of data from the midterms. We looked at neighborhoods, precincts, women, men, ages. We made choices around ‘These are the areas we’re going to phone bank,’ and ‘These are the areas we’re gonna go hit in person,’ because we can get a bigger bang for the buck.”

High Touch, High Tech

A half-hour after leaving Andersonville, the Black Voters Matter van and several cars pulled into Magnolia Village, a recently renovated low-income apartment complex in Americus, the Sumter County seat. After parking, Jones greeted Dr. Brooks Robinson, the exuberant assistant principal of a local grade school.

Robinson, a tall, broad-shouldered man not yet in middle age, saw someone getting into their car and walked up the driveway to the driver’s window.

“How you doing sir? We want to give you some information about voting… Are you planning to vote,” he began. When the man tentatively replied, “Uh, I might,” – which probably meant that he wasn’t – Robinson took another tact.

“Do I know you? Where do you know me from,” he asked, taking a friendlier and a less business-like tone. Cedric Hurley, 37, replied, “from school.”

“Alright, you gotta go vote,” Robinson said.

Robinson asked Hurley if he was registered and when he last voted. Hurley didn’t quite remember. Robinson said he could check. He asked if Hurley wanted to use his phone to go to a state website to find out. Jones joined the conversation.

“It’s real simple,” she said, asking Hurley if she could use his phone for a minute. She entered the initial of his first name, last name, county, and date of birth.

“Yes! Your name’s Cedric, isn’t it? You’re registered,” she said. “You can go this week for early voting. Take your ID.”

But then Jones paused. She saw that Hurley was listed as an inactive voter, which meant that he had not voted in several years. She explained what that meant.

“You just go down here, to the old Sumter County fairground, tomorrow, Thursday or Friday. Take your ID. You can vote. They’ll just lift that immediately off and make you active again,” Jones said.

“You want me to go with you, Cedric?” Robinson asked. “Oh no,” he replied.

This personal touch, known as relational organizing, and tools such as checking one’s voter registration status online, have evolved since 2020, when Georgia’s two U.S. Senate contests also went into runoffs.

In 2020’s election and runoffs, a coalition of older civil rights groups led by NAACP Atlanta and newer groups such as Black Voters Matter made a deliberate effort to collaborate – instead of duplicating efforts. Other civic groups, such as Black fraternities and sororities, and professional organizations such as the Masons, who have chapters across the state, participated.

In 2022, those efforts have grown. In urban areas, such as the counties around Atlanta, groups like the Center for Common Ground have identified every precinct where at least 40 percent of registered Black voters have voted, said Monica Brown, Ph.D., a social science researcher leading that effort.

Metro Atlanta’s Cobb County was her top priority. “They have the most ‘super voters,’ but they also have the most inactive voters,” Brown said, interviewed in a parking lot after giving volunteers door hangers to put up in underperforming precincts. The literature listed voting options, locations, instructions, numbers to call for rides and other help, as well as issues that mattered to more suburban voters.

In southwest Georgia, where there were fewer voters, Jones said the targeting was different. She focused on reaching voters in county commissioner districts. That would “hold the line” for the Senate runoffs and nurture a base to elect more responsive representatives in future local and state elections.

“We’ve got a strategy,” she said. “I believe it will work.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Texas Resident Herschel Walker Could Face Voter Fraud Charges In Georgia

While Georgians flock to the polls in the state’s Senate runoff between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and the Republican Party’s most incompetent candidate, Herschel Walker, one Georgia resident is on the attack—and Walker is in her crosshairs.

According to reporting by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) , Ann Gregory Roberts has filed a complaint asking that the attorney general’s office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation “promptly investigate” Walker for an “apparent violation of Georgia law.”

Roberts alleges that the Heisman Trophy winner broke the law “by registering and voting in Georgia while knowingly maintaining his principal residence in Texas.” As Daily Kos reported last week, Walker received a homestead tax break on his $3 million home in 2021 and 2022—even after announcing his candidacy and then voting in Georgia’s 2022 Republican primary and the general elections.

CNN reports that even while he was out campaigning this year, Walker was heard talking about the U.S.-Mexico border during a speech to University of Georgia College Republicans, saying, “I live in Texas … I went down to the border off and on sometimes.”

Walker even added in that same speech, “Everyone asks me, why did I decide to run for a Senate seat? Because, to be honest with you, this is never something I ever, ever, ever thought in my life I’d ever do … And that’s the honest truth. As I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas, and I was seeing what was going on in this country. I was seeing what was going on in this country with how they were trying to divide people.”

CNN also reports that Walker even gave several interviews from his Texas manse.

AJC reports that, on Monday, Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams doubled down on calls for a probe into Walker to find out whether he “lied about being a Georgia resident.” Williams said, “Georgians deserve answers … and Walker must be held accountable for his pattern of lies and disturbing conduct.”

According to CNN, Walker filed for a homestead tax exemption in Texas in 2022, a break that gave him $1,500 off his property taxes. But then the former Dallas Cowboy registered and voted in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2021 and 2022.

Walker’s been living in Texas for decades, but according to The Daily Beast, has allegedly kept a home in Atlanta for 17 years.

“It’s weird. We’ve had this home here for about 17 years. We’ve had this home here in Atlanta about 17 years,” Walker told Rolling Out in a September interview.

The Constitution states that candidates don’t have to have a primary residence in the state where they’re running—at least until they actually win the seat.

The Daily Beast reports that the Trump-backed candidate’s wife, Julie Blanchard, has been receiving thousands in rental income on the Atlanta home, per the candidate’s 2021 financial disclosure filings. Walker used the Atlanta home as his official address when filing to run for Senate in August 2021. Additionally, Blanchard received $49,997 in COVID-19 relief loans at the Walkers’ Texas home in Dallas.

According to Roberts’ complaint, Walker committed a felony when he voted in the 2022 primary and general elections.

The complaint states:

“To be eligible to vote in Georgia, a voter must be “a resident of [Georgia] and of the county or municipality in which he or she seeks to vote. Georgia law proscribes a number of explicit and unambiguous criteria for determining a voter’s residence, including that ‘[t]he specific address in the county or municipality in which a person has declared a homestead exemption, if a homestead exemption has been claimed, shall be deemed the person’s residence address.’ In addition, Georgia law is clear that “[a] person shall not be considered to have gained a residence in any county or municipality of this state into which such person has come for temporary purposes only without the intention of making such county or municipality such person’s permanent place of abode.”

According to the Texas Tribune, Walker’s use of the homestead exemption tax break could be illegal according to Texas state law, which only allows homeowners to claim the break on their “principal residence.”

Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis told CNN that Walker isn’t actually breaking the rules as a candidate, but it does make him look pretty shady politically.

“At the end of the day, this is more of a political problem than a legal one, in all likelihood … where Walker can be painted as a carpetbagger. It does call into question whether Walker’s change of residency was made in good faith,” Kreis said.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

In Senate Runoff, Georgia's Organizers Defy GOP Attack On Voting Rights

On the only day of Sunday voting before Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff, the auto-parts store parking lot across the street from Atlanta’s Metropolitan Library looked and sounded more like a block party than a get-out-the-vote event.

“We’re having a good time on this corner. If you feel the spirit, let me hear your horn. Come on!” bellowed D.J. Concrete Kash above a sound system that played gospel music and was next to several orange shade tents filled with free food, water, hand warmers and voter guides.

“We have five or six organizations out here coming together to say, ‘Hey, we believe in what you all are doing,” said Chandra Gallashaw, a community organizer. “Georgia Stand Up is over there. The NAACP. Black Voters Matter. We Vote, We Win… It has nothing to do with anyone running for office. It has to do with these people over there in line exercising their right, their constitutional right to vote.”

The tables at this pro-voter effort comprised some of Georgia’s oldest and newest non-profit civil rights groups. While they were careful not to endorse any candidate, their presence was a powerful rejoinder to the state’s GOP-led government, whose 2021 legislation banned giving food and water to anyone waiting to vote, among other roll backs of voting options.

“As we know, our governor [Republican Brian Kemp] banned us from being able to give water in line. We have to be 150 feet away from the polls,” said Mykah Owens, a campaign associate with We Vote We Win. “One of our guys measured and made sure that we’re far enough from the polls so we won’t get in trouble.”

“We had to do something,” said Gallashaw. “The fact we cannot give water in line to people who stand in line for two or three hours… Some of these folks are 70, 80 years old. Some of them are diabetic. They have health issues.”

A similar “Party to the Polls” was held at three of Fulton County’s two-dozen voting sites on Sunday and will continue through the early voting period which ends on Friday. While the event was a rarity in this populous county, its significance was not lost on Black voters.

“I love the fact that although they tried to pass a law where you couldn’t give water and things to people in line, they just put it across the street,” said Yasha Yisrael, who, with her husband, Chasum Yisrael, were sipping free smoothies from one of three food trucks. “It’s amazing.”

“It’s something that should have been done all along and I hope they continue it,” she continued, “because it does encourage more people who would not normally vote who are registered to come in and vote because they feel this sense of community.”

“Every effort is being tried to stop our right to vote,” said Chasum Yisreal. “We’ve got to be smart about it.”

The couple said that they did not know who the newer civic groups were. But across the state’s 159 counties, a coalition of community-based organizations, from mainstays like the NAACP and sororities and fraternities from historically Black colleges and universities to new groups targeting younger people, are making a determined effort to turn out voters for the Senate runoff and to keep in touch year round to try to change state’s political representation.

Georgia, as Rep. Nikema Williams told the Democratic National Committee last June in a bid to urge the DNC to move up its 2024 presidential primary date, is one of the nation’s most racially diverse states with growing Black, Latino and Asian-Pacific Islander populations. It is the fifth-ranked state for women-owned businesses and 41 percent of all businesses are minority owned, which is double the national average. But cosmopolitan Atlanta is surrounded by the old South, where conservatives continue to dominate county and municipal government.

That landscape has turned every recent Georgia election into a struggle to engage voters. The Senate runoff was no exception and is operating under some new voting rules.

This is the first time that a statewide runoff is being held one month after Election Day. That timetable is half as long as the state’s two U.S. Senate runoff elections in 2020 and was created by the GOP’s 2021 legislation. One impact of the shorter timetable is to block new voters from registering. It also is too tight a timeline to obtain and return a mailed-out ballot.

Additionally, the legislation shortened the runoff’s early voting period to one week, although some metro counties expanded it through this past weekend, and a few counties started before Thanksgiving. (Republicans tried to bar voting on Saturday but lost in court last week.)

The early turnout numbers suggest that voters are not deterred by the 2021 law’s tightening of voting options. On Sunday, Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, tweeted that some metro Atlanta voting sites were experiencing waits of two hours. The wait at the Metropolitan Library’s first day of early voting on Saturday was as long, said We Vote, We Win’s Owens.

“We had over a two-hour wait yesterday. You usually don’t see that until the end of early voting – more towards the Election Day,” she said. “People are paying attention.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Herschel Walker Took 'Primary Residence' Tax Break -- In Texas

Although MAGA Republican Herschel Walker is running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia and is registered to vote in Atlanta, the former football star owns a house in the Dallas area. According to CNN, Walker is getting a “homestead tax exemption” on that house. But in Texas, such an exemption, CNN notes, is strictly for one’s primary residence.

Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, reporting for CNN’s KFile on November 23, explain, “Publicly available tax records reviewed by CNN’s KFile show Walker is listed to get a homestead tax exemption in Texas in 2022, saving the Senate candidate approximately $1500 and potentially running afoul of both Texas tax rules and some Georgia rules on establishing residency for the purpose of voting or running for office. Walker registered to vote in Atlanta, Georgia in 2021 after living in Texas for two decades and voting infrequently. In Texas, homeowner regulations say you can only take the exemption on your ‘principal residence.’”

Someone who lives and works in Georgia has every right to own a home in Texas. But a homestead tax break on a property in Texas, Kaczynski and Steck note, is strictly for someone who primarily lives there — not someone who primarily lives in a different state, such as Georgia.

According to the CNN reporters, “Walker took the tax break in 2021 and 2022 for his Texas home even after launching a bid for Senate in Georgia, an official in the Tarrant County tax assessor office told CNN’s KFile…. Politicians in the past in Texas have landed in hot water over improperly taking the exemption, including then-Gov. Rick Perry, and have typically agreed to pay back taxes. Questions have swirled around Walker’s residency since he actively began exploring the possibility of a Senate run in Georgia last year, and Democrats and Republicans alike hit Walker over the issue.”

Kaczynski and Steck also point out that in order to “run for office and vote in Georgia, 15 rules, not all of which need to be met, are considered for establishing residency.” One of them is “where the resident takes their homestead tax exemption and where they intend to live permanently.”

“The U.S. Constitution only requires a potential senator to be an inhabitant of their state when elected,” the reporters add.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Does Herschel Walker Have Any Idea What He's Talking About?

As Republican nominee Herschel Walker enters the final weeks before the Georgia Senate runoff election, he has not been able to articulate cogent policy positions on virtually any of the major issues of concern to voters.

Walker will face off again against Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock in a runoff election ending December 6. Warnock received more votes than Walker in the November 8 general election, but neither candidate reached the 50 percent majority required to win.

Walker, who has frequently boasted of his role as an honorary law enforcement officer, has made fighting crime a major focus of his campaign rhetoric. On October 17, when he was asked during an appearance on NBC News' Meet the Press what crime legislation he would sponsor first if elected, Walker responded, "You know, the first bill you would wanna sponsor, it's gotta be something dealing with, supported our men and women in blue." Pressed for details, he said: "I have no idea what it's gonna look like. … What it's gonna look like, who knows? But we have to, have to get something back where you have law and order. We have to get something back where we have some unity because criminals not afraid of police anymore."

On November 15, Atlanta CBS News affiliate 13WMAZ reported that it had asked Walker's campaign the same question and had received a general response that he would continue making "strong investments" in law enforcement.

The campaign did not immediately respond to an American Independent Foundation request for his detailed policy positions on crime and other top issues.

Walker has spent the Senate campaign seemingly unable to provide coherent answers to policy questions or detailed legislative ideas.

In August, in a story titled "Herschel Walker skips details in bid to oust Raphael Warnock," the AP noted that while Walker blamed Warnock for inflation, he changed the subject to immigration and crime when asked how he himself would reduce it.

A November 16 report by 13WMAZ noted that while Walker has supported increased domestic oil and gas production, he has offered no other anti-inflation policy ideas. Warnock voted for the Inflation Reduction Act and authored key provisions to lower costs for medications and insulin for older Americans.

In an October 14 debate, Walker said he would have opposed the legislation. "I believe in reducing insulin, but at the same time you gotta eat right," he said. "Because he may not know and I know many people that's on insulin, and unless you have eating right, insulin is doing you no good."

After the May 24 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, CNN asked Walker if he would support gun safety legislation. "What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff. I like to see it," he replied, before walking away.

Two days later, on Fox News, Walker suggested, "What about getting a department that can look at young men that's looking at women that's looking at social media. What about doing that, looking into things like that, and we can stop that that way."

In January, Walker scolded a reporter from the right-wing media outlet Daily Caller for asking if he'd have voted for the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, telling him: "Until I see all the facts, you can't answer the question. I think that's what is totally unfair to someone like myself to say, 'What are you going to vote for?'"

Walker has repeatedly fumbled questions about climate change.

"Since we don't control the air, our good air decide to float over to China's bad air. So when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. And now we got to clean that back up," he said in July.

In August, he said he disliked the Inflation Reduction Act "because a lot of money, it's going to trees. Don't we have enough trees around here?"

"If we was ready for the green agenda, I'd raise my hand right now," Walker said during a campaign event on November 13. "But we're not ready right now. So don't let them fool you like this is a new agenda. This is not a new agenda. We're not prepared. We're not ready right now. What we need to do is keep having those gas-guzzling cars, 'cause we got the good emissions under those cars. We're doing the best thing that we can."

Last December, Walker criticized a voting rights bill named for the late Democratic Georgia Rep. John Lewis, referring to Lewis as a senator and falsely claiming: "I think then to throw his name on a bill for voting rights, I think is a shame. First of all, when you look at the bill, it just doesn't fit what John Lewis stood for and I think they know that and I think that is sad for them to do this to him."

Warnock, who has detailed policy positions on the issues, tweeted on November 8 that Walker is "neither fit nor ready for this job."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

The Party Of Sham And Chicanery Is More Trumpy Than Ever

Republicans may win or lose elections during this midterm cycle but either way, the once Grand Old Party is completing its devolution into a mirror of former President Donald Trump. The midterm elections have magnified its reflection of his deeply inauthentic and malignant character. Compulsive lying, constant expressions of hostility and cruelty, and the sheer phoniness of the Republican candidates cannot cloak the party's hollow core, whose true ideology is nihilism.

Not surprisingly, Trump is attracted to figures who resemble him, and especially to those who genuflect to him without a trace of self-respect. None of them will hold fast to any political principle because, despite professions of patriotism and piety, their only purpose is to grab for power, wealth and the weird status of being approved by Trump. Like Trump himself, they are grifters first and last.

Mehmet Oz may be the single most perfect example of this Trumpian template. Having achieved great wealth and a degree of fame if not respect on a cheesy cable TV show, and selling magic vitamins, Dr. Oz determined long ago that the medical profession's moral precepts could only hinder his advancement. Years of promoting fake cures and instant weight-loss pills fostered a deep cynicism that is the essence of the candidate we see today: a phony Pennsylvanian who actually still resides in New Jersey and eagerly asserts extreme positions on abortion, guns, health insurance and other issues that he shunned when practicing medicine. Dr. Oz is a new-fangled worshipper of Trump, but an old-fashioned faith-healing quack.

On a superficial level, Herschel Walker seems like an entirely different sort of celebrity candidate, unable to mimic the smooth patter of chameleons like Oz or J.D. Vance. But as a fraudulent personality, the former football star can compete with the worst of them. Even before Trump handpicked Walker, it was clear that Republicans no longer cared about the mental health or intellectual capacity of their candidates, or whether they have any marbles (see Coach Tommy Tuberville, the brazen racist senator from Alabama, another gridiron genius).

Walker is a perfect symbol of a party that pretends to care about sexual "morality," and yet formulates comically convoluted excuses for a man whose shady escapades led him to pressure women — who knows how many? — to terminate the pregnancies he caused, and to put a gun to the head of his ex-wife. His fantasy resume as a "successful business executive" would be Trumpian, except that Walker can't even fake it plausibly. But that doesn't seem to bother Republican stalwarts in Georgia.

If you liked Jerry Falwell Jr., the gamy subject of a Hulu TV documentary premiering this week, God Forbid, about sex antics involving his wife and the pool-boy, you'll love the ridiculously "saved" Walker and all the Trump Republicans. Falwell was the first big evangelical leader to endorse Trump in 2015, and those birds of a feather are now a flock.

As for Vance, he stands (or more precisely kneels) for an especially slavish brand of Trumpism. The author of Hillbilly Elegy is a flipping convert who despised Donald until that opinion was no longer convenient for Vance's ambition and then flopped down to lick his boots. Even Trump can't always resist mocking these spineless creatures, as when he noted during a campaign rally that the Ohio Senate nominee "is kissing my ass" after saying "lots of bad (stuff) about me." Indeed Vance said some very bad stuff, like his 2016 observation that Trump "might be a cynical asshole like Nixon or might be America's Hitler." That's all in the rearview mirror now, because Vance is a political puppet of fascist billionaire Peter Thiel, the biggest donor to the Republican Party, and Thiel sees Trumpism as the vehicle to turn American politics further and further right into dark nihilism.

Speaking of Thiel, he represents still another sort of duplicity that ought to bring shame on him and all the Republicans who grasp at his lucre. The politicians he so lavishly finances are outspokenly hostile to gay rights, including marriage equality, and are hyping a paranoid vision of gay and trans Americans as evil "groomers" who endanger children. But oddly enough, Thiel himself is quite actively gay and married to a man. How does he resolve the contradiction? If the far right he has empowered starts to persecute gays, he'll be alright with that — because he is already buying citizenship in gay-friendly Malta.

But what will all these mountebanks and moralizing imposters do for the average voter? Remember the promises Trump made in 2016, and how he violated all of them. These MAGA Republicans certainly won't reduce inflation, a worldwide problem for which they don't even propose solutions. They won't protect your children, or your retirement, or your health care, or your rights. They will assuredly cut their own taxes, slash your well-earned Social Security and Medicare, continue to plunder the planet, and laugh at every gullible American who voted for them, all the way to the bank — just like their master Trump.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Republicans Flood Media With GOP Polls, Slanting Averages In Midterm

As former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway once suggested, if you don't like the facts, just create alternative facts.

That's exactly what Republicans and their pollsters are doing in several of this cycle's most hotly contested races.

Take Georgia, for instance—until about October 21 or 22, Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock had been holding a pretty steady three to four-point lead during October over his GOP rival Herschel Walker in FiveThirtyEight's aggregate. Then the gap suddenly narrowed to about one point in the final week of October, Warnock 46.7 percent - Walker 45.4 percent.

What exactly happened to nudge Walker into contention to take the lead? A whole bunch of GOP-slanted polls, that's what.

Of the seven aggregate polls taken since October 21, five of them were conducted by either GOP-aligned groups or pollsters that use friendly GOP modeling: Trafalgar Group, Rasmussen Reports, Moore Information (Walker poll), co/efficient, and InsiderAdvantage. All of them put Walker in the lead by anywhere from two to five points.

The two other polls—one conducted by The New York Times/Siena College and the other for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution—found that Warnock had a three-point advantage and the two candidates were tied, respectively.

Perhaps the most deceptive polling outfit is InsiderAdvantage, which polls for Fox affiliates across the country, giving the surveys the veneer of being even-handed media-sponsored polls. But a quick google search of the pollster finds their handiwork generating GOP-friendly headlines in several of the key contests they have polled:

  • FOX 5 Atlanta: Kemp, Walker hold leads in major Georgia races in new InsiderAdvantage/Fox 5 poll
  • FOX 29 Philadelphia: InsiderAdvantage/FOX 29 poll: Fetterman, Oz neck and neck as Shapiro’s lead over Mastriano narrows
  • FOX 10 Phoenix: 2022 Arizona Election Poll: Lake leads governor's race, Senate race tightens

Wow, Republican prospects are really improving across the board. Amazing.

The red mirage, as it were, is also evident in Pennsylvania's Senate race: Three of the five aggregate polls taken since October 20 are from GOP-friendly groups, all of which give Republican nominee Mehmet Oz a two to three-point advantage over Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

The other two surveys show Fetterman maintaining a lead. NewYork Times/Siena put Fetterman up 5 points, 49 percent -- 44 percent, and CBS News/YouGov gave Fetterman a slimmer 2-point edge, 51 percent -- 49 percent.

As TargetSmart CEO and data analyst Tom Bonier, noted, "After a flood of GOP outlier polls in all of these races designed to create stories about an impending red wave and digging into why Dems are losing ("is it crime/inflation?"), New York Times/Siena suggests not much has changed in these races in the past two weeks."

Here are the top lines of the New York Times/Siena polling from four key Senate contests released Monday:

Arizona: D+6
Sen. Mark Kelly (D), 51 percent
Blake Masters 45 percent

Georgia: D+3
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), 49 percent
Herschel Walker, 46 percent

Nevada: Even
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), 47 percent
Adam Laxalt, 47 percent

Pennsylvania: D+6
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), 49 percent
Mehmet Oz, 44 percent

Pro-GOP polls have also made their mark on FiveThirtyEight's congressional generic ballot aggregate, as I noted last week.

As demonstrated above by the FOX affiliate coverage, the GOP-aligned polls have become part of a Republican feedback loop that is inspiring a disproportional amount of pro-Republican horse-race stories both locally and at the national level.

And yet, the latest round of New York Times/Siena surveys in individual races suggests Democrats are very much both holding their own and even beating expectations in some cases in both the House and the Senate.

The coverage hyping a GOP surge this cycle isn’t only misleading, it’s dangerous—particularly since it exists in an amped-up environment where most MAGA Republicans already believe they were cheated in the last cycle. Sure, Republicans might have a good night next week—that’s completely plausible. But most surveys taken by legitimate outfits suggest a very competitive landscape where Democrats could just as easily outperform expectations.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos