Nexstar Media hosted a multi-market live debate between the major party candidates for U.S. Senator from Georgia: incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.  The debate, held in Savannah at the J.W. Marriott Savannah in the Plant Riverside District, was the pair’s only meeting in a one-on-one format.

During the debate, Walker denied his previous support for an outright national ban on abortion, making the shift in his lone debate against Warnock.

Walker, a staunch anti-abortion politician recently accused by a former girlfriend of encouraging and paying for her 2009 abortion, accused Warnock of misstating his position by saying Walker had supported a national ban on abortion, without exceptions.

Walker insisted his position is the same as Georgia’s state law, the so-called heartbeat bill that bans abortion at six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant.

But Walker had insisted at various points throughout the campaign that he supported a national abortion ban, without exceptions. He called the lack of that ban “a problem” during a campaign stop in July.

But on the debate stage, Walker tried to shift the question to Warnock. Walker blasted Warnock for being a Baptist pastor who supports abortion rights.

“On abortion, you know, I’m a Christian. I believe in life. … I’ll be a senator that protects life,” Walker said, later suggesting that Warnock doesn’t care about abortions in the Black community. Both men are Black.

“Instead of aborting those babies, why aren’t you baptizing those babies?” Walker asked.

Warnock insisted he can support abortion rights as a Christian and as a pastor. “God gave us a choice and I respect the right of women to make a decision. These are medical decisions, they are deeply personal,” Warnock said, adding that Walker “wants to arrogate more power to politicians than God has.”

The debate in Georgia’s marquee Senate contest was held just days before in-person early voting begins Monday. The outcome will help determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years of President Joe Biden’s term.

The matchup forced both men to answer attacks — personal and political — that have flooded voters’ television screens and social media feeds for months.

Warnock and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff won their Senate seats in a January 2021 special election two months after Biden won Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast. That was the first time in two decades Democrats won federal elections in the historically conservative state, raising questions about whether Warnock can replicate his victory in a midterm election, especially with Biden’s popularity down among Georgia voters.

Walker has seized on that landscape, caricaturing Warnock as a rubber-stamp for the administration. Warnock’s answer has been to emphasize legislative accomplishments in Washington, with a focus on provisions he sponsored capping insulin and other health care costs for Medicare recipients, Democrats’ extension of the child tax credit and infrastructure provisions that Warnock shepherded with Republican colleagues.

The debate sparked plenty of conversation on social media — spiking the hashtag #GASenDebate to the top trend on Twitter.

The debate was anchored by WSAV-TV’s Tina Tyus-Shaw and WAGA-TV’s Buck Lanford. It was made available to more than 10 million viewers across Georgia and aired on five Nexstar television stations serving the state. 

StationNetworkMarket
WSAV-TVNBCSavannah GA
WRBL-TVCBSColumbus GA
WJBF-TVABCAugusta GA
WSPA-TV 7.2CWSpartanburg SC
WDHN–TVABCDothan AL
WAGA-TVFOXAtlanta GA
WGXA-TVABCMacon GA
WFXH-TVFOXSavannah GA
WTVC-TVNBCChattanooga TN
WTWC-TVNBCTallahassee FL
WFXL-TVFOXAlbany GA

The election for Georgia Senate will take place on Tuesday, November 8.  Voters must register to vote by Tuesday October 11th. To register to vote, and find out more regarding the upcoming elections,  including early voting dates, polling locations and voter identification requirements, please visit https://registertovote.sos.ga.gov/

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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