Nina Blackwelder wasn’t surprised when she read news about the latest Herschel Walker scandal for the first time, but she was “disappointed.”
“I think it’s just messy,” Blackwelder told Capital B Atlanta. “It’s just another messy thing in an election that’s really important. There’s already been some character aspersions cast, and now this is just another layer.”
The Daily Beast published the report Monday in which an anonymous alleged ex-girlfriend accused Walker, the staunch anti-abortion GOP nominee competing to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, of conceiving a child with her in 2009 before urging her to get an abortion, for which she said he sent her a $700 check and a signed get-well-soon card.
Walker has denied the accuser’s claims and threatened to sue The Daily Beast in retaliation. His 23-year-old son, conservative social media personality Christian Walker, went on a subsequent Twitter rant accusing his father of lying repeatedly on the campaign trail following earlier scandals, suggesting the former Heisman Trophy winner has been hypocritical about his stances on being an absentee father and opposing abortion with no exceptions.
The abortion exposé could prove pivotal for Walker with less than five weeks until Election Day. Recent polls show the race is tight, and political observers have theorized Black voters could make or break Walker’s campaign. How Black Republicans view Walker, as a result, may play a crucial role in his bid to unseat Warnock.
Blackwelder is the 34-year-old former Georgia House candidate and current owner of a Peachtree City firearm supply shop called Triple Barreled Outfitters who voiced her support for Walker during a Black business roundtable campaign event in College Park in August.
She’s one of a number of Black Republicans in Georgia who have lamented Walker’s personal scandals, but she also still plans to vote for him in November.
“As a person, I think he has some flaws, like we all do,” Blackwelder said. “But for me, this election is more than the person. It’s more than the man. It’s the big picture here.”
The “big picture,” according to Blackwelder and other Black GOP supporters who spoke with Capital B Atlanta, is the tenuous balance of power in Congress, which Democrats secured in 2021 when Warnock became the first Black person ever to win a Georgia U.S. Senate seat and just the second Democrat, along with Jon Ossoff, to do so in almost two decades.
Avion Abreu, a registered Republican and a Realtor for Atlanta Fine Homes and Sotheby’s International Realty, also participated in the Walker campaign’s August Black business roundtable. Abreu, like Blackwelder, said she cares more about addressing issues such as inflation, crime, border security, and electing lawmakers who she feels support pro-business economic policies than Walker’s personal shortcomings.
“With regards to what Herschel Walker does in his personal life, I will be very honest with you, I’m less concerned,” she continued. “I’m more concerned with how he’s going to be able to impact my business as a Black-owned business.”
Georgia GOP strategist Leo Smith said Black Republicans tend to be more focused on policy positions and the quality of Black candidates. On the flip side, white Republicans may be more swayed by a candidate’s fame and name recognition.
As a result, Smith said Black Republicans he’s spoken with are “forlorn” over Walker.
“We’re not getting good candidates with character, with the kind of leadership that we’d like to see, that we’ve had with our traditional strong civil rights leaders like Dr. [Martin Luther] King,” Smith said. “That’s something that creates a little despondency amongst Black Republicans when it comes to, ‘Do we have the kind of person that we really want to see run and represent us?’”
Cory Ruth is a former GOP political financial consultant who now serves as CEO of Mergence Global, a management consulting firm that specializes in cybersecurity and data strategy. He said many of the criticisms Walker has faced about lying, lacking intelligence, and being a poor public speaker can also be said about other politicians.
“We can’t sit here and pretend like Herschel is the only candidate running for office who is not the most articulate person,” Ruth said. “I view most politicians the way I view Herschel Walker. They are lying about their resume. I view the current president the same way.”
Ruth supported fellow Black Republican Kelvin King over Walker during their GOP primary matchup in May and conceded Warnock is “more stately” than Walker, but that’s also not Ruth’s chief concern at present.
“We’re in an era where we are selecting people who, like Herschel, are celebrities,” Ruth said. “People are choosing based on party politics. How many numbers you’re going to have in the Senate for Republicans versus Democrats, and how the person is going to vote, and that’s the only thing that seems to matter.”