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Herschel Walker expands his Georgia Senate campaign team as controversies mount

The Republican's advisers described the timing as coincidental, but the announcement follows a series of potentially damaging stories about Walker's Senate campaign.
Herschel Walker speaks at a primary watch party on May 23, 2022, in Athens, Ga.
Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks at a primary watch party on May 23 in Athens, Ga.Akili-Casundria Ramsess / AP file

Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, has called in a team of veteran Washington operatives and other national political hands as he navigates relentless questions about his character that have whiplashed his campaign in recent weeks. 

The new hires, several of which were first reported by The Washington Post, were confirmed Monday in a statement the campaign issued without additional comment.

Pressed by NBC News, campaign officials described the timing of the staff expansion as coincidental. Some of the aides and advisers included in the announcement had been working with Walker since before the primary. Others are part of a plan to beef up staff for what’s expected to be a competitive match against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock this fall. The race could determine partisan control of the Senate, currently split 50-50 but favoring Democrats thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

“It’s typical for campaigns to build out at this point in the cycle — especially for a high-profile race like ours,” deputy campaign manager Mallory Blount, whose promotion from communications director was also announced Monday, wrote in an email. “We are happy that so many top-tier political operatives are jumping at the chance to join our campaign to defeat Sen. Warnock — since he’s shown he loves Washington more than he loves Georgia.”

Walker, a former football star revered for his playing days at the University of Georgia, has battled one controversy after another. After he easily won the GOP nomination in May, news reports trickled out over several days about three children he fathered but had not acknowledged publicly, undercutting his past laments about absentee fathers in the Black community. He continues to face scrutiny over his business dealings. And concerns about past domestic violence accusations that surfaced before the primary also linger over the race. Walker has denied criminal wrongdoing. 

A Quinnipiac University poll late last month found Warnock leading Walker by 10 percentage points — a wide berth viewed skeptically by operatives in both parties who agree the race is much closer. A survey this month by the progressive group Data for Progress found Walker and Warnock in a virtual tie. The Cook Political Report characterizes the race as a toss-up.

Scott Paradise, who oversaw Walker’s victory in the primary, remains in place as campaign manager. Among those joining him are Chip Lake, a longtime Georgia strategist, and Gail Gitcho, a national GOP communications specialist who has worked for the Republican Governors Association and on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

The list is also heavy with alumni of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, and other high-profile Republicans like Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Finance Director Meredith O’Rourke, has raised money for former President Donald Trump and worked with Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP’s campaign arm for Senate races.

An NRSC spokesperson downplayed the significance of the campaign moves Monday.

“Georgians are paying record prices for gas and groceries while crime rages and the border is open,” said the spokesperson, Chris Hartline. “It’s all because of Warnock’s 100% support for Biden’s agenda. Herschel will win because he’s fighting for Georgia families, not Washington liberals.”