Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Republican challenger Herschel Walker sparred over a range of issues from abortion and policing to personal integrity on Friday as a key contest that could help determine control of the Senate came to a head in a contentious televised debate.
Walker, a onetime football star and political novice backed by former President Donald Trump, sought to brand the incumbent as a rubber stamp for Democratic President Joe Biden's agenda, which Republicans have painted as responsible for inflation, crime and other social ills.
"This race ain't about me. It about what Raphael Warnock and Joe Biden have done to you and your family," Walker said. "I'm here to fix it."
Warnock, pastor at a historic Atlanta church who has served less than two years in the Senate, presented himself as a committed public servant who has worked to cap the price of insulin, control gun violence and protect rights.
Their showdown is one of the most closely watched contests in the Nov. 8 congressional elections. During the hourlong debate in Savannah, Walker accused Warnock of attacking the police, empowering criminals and allowing the powerful painkiller fentanyl into Georgia by not protecting U.S. borders.
"We will see time and time again tonight, as we have already seen, that my opponent has a problem with the truth. And just because he says something doesn't mean it's true," Warnock responded to applause from the audience.
The race had already been rocked by media reports that Walker, who has voiced opposition to abortion without exceptions, paid for an abortion in 2009 to terminate the pregnancy of a woman he was dating and who later gave birth to one of his children. Walker has called the allegation a "flat-out lie." Reuters has not independently confirmed the claim.
During the debate, Walker repeated his statement that the reports are false and reiterated his position on abortion: "I'm a Christian. I believe in life."
Democrats hold slim majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. Senate control could be decided by the outcome of races in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
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