Raphael Warnock throws to Miami, Fort Lauderdale for help tackling Herschel Walker challenge

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Fresh off a statewide bus tour supporting his re-election bid in Georgia, Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is hitting South Florida next week for help in tackling Republican former NFL running back Hershel Walker in the General Election.

Warnock’s Sunshine State sojourn includes two stops. The first, on Sept. 8, will take place at 6:30 p.m. in Miami. The second is at noon on Sept. 9 in Fort Lauderdale.

The announced trips to South Florida come days after a new survey showed Walker with a two-point lead over Warnock.

The poll by Emerson College, conducted Aug. 28-29, also found Walker had a 50% favorability rating compared to 47% for Warnock.

That metric changed markedly when taken to the extreme, however. Of those surveyed, 41% said they held a “very favorable” opinion of Warnock, a pastor in private life who became Georgia’s first Black Democratic U.S. Senator after winning a special election in 2020.

Warnock’s victory, alongside another in the state by Jon Ossoff, delivered control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats for the first time since 2014. According to FiveThrityEight, the race is one of seven contests that could decide whether Democrats retain control of the Senate.

Just 27% of respondents to the poll said they held a “very favorable” opinion of Walker, a University of Georgia football icon, Heisman Trophy winner, 12-season NFL player, former mixed martial arts fighter and one-time contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, a reality show hosted by his political mentor, Donald Trump.

Part of that may have to do with Walker’s past. As his Senate campaign gained momentum, troublesome information resurfaced. In 2005, his ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, obtained a protective order against him on claims he threatened to murder her.

Walker has attributed that incident and others to his struggle with dissociative identity disorder, a condition formerly called multiple personality disorder with which he was diagnosed in 2001 and about which he has since been very open.

Warnock’s proactive approach to fundraising has worked well so far. As of July, he held more than $22 million after raising $17.2 million in the second quarter of 2022. Walker, meanwhile, had $7 million in cash after a $6.2 million Q2 haul.

Through June 30, Warnock spent more than $85 million. Walker had raised just $20.2 million since filing to run and spent $13.4 million.

The two have yet to debate or concur on conditions. Warnock agreed in June to three debates in Atlanta, Savannah and Macon. Walker said he’d only attend a different debate on Oct. 14 in Savannah.

Lawyers Jennifer Stearns Buttrick, Allison Miller and Eugene Stearns of international firm Stearns Weaver Miller will host Warnock’s Miami stop. In Fort Lauderdale, attorneys Sharon Kegerreis and Mitchell Berger of business law firm Berger Singerman LLP will play host.

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