BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. - With fewer than nine weeks until Election Day, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker launched a bus tour Wednesday to try to connect with more Georgia voters.
Walker is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia.
"We're going to do it the old-fashioned way and campaign. Get out and meet the voters and talk to people," Walker said in an exclusive interview with FOX 5. "We want them to see that there's a big contrast between Sen. Warnock and myself."
The first stop of Walker's "Unite Georgia Bus Tour" was at LakePoint Sports in Emerson, Ga. where Walker spoke to a crowd of more than a hundred people. He then posed for pictures with supporters.
STUDENT LOAN DEBT RELIEF
Walker criticized his opponent and President Joe Biden for policies that he claims will "bankrupt everything" and called the president's student debt relief program "a gimmick."
"You know all these things are coming up during midterm. It's almost time for people to vote and I think right now they can't win on the issues. So, you're coming up with all these excuses trying to get people to vote for them," said Walker.
Under the program, the federal government will forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for others, as long as they have an income of less than $125,000 per year or $250,000 per year for married couples.
Meanwhile, Sen. Warnock applauded the move and said he will continue to push for even more debt relief.
"This announcement will help many Georgians, some of whom have been struggling with debt for decades, get their financial footing, and it will help keep our economy strong and growing. That’s why I’ve been pushing the Biden Administration since my swearing in to take aggressive action to provide relief to Georgians— especially Pell grant recipients and working class folks who went to technical school, vocational school, or community college," said Sen. Rev. Warnock.
ATLANTA MEDICAL CENTER
Immediately after the announcement that Wellstar will close Atlanta Medical Center November 1, Sen. Warnock and four other congressional colleagues asked the healthcare company to reverse course and asked for a briefing on what lead to the decision.
"This will be a devastating blow to healthcare in the region, which is why I wrote a letter to the CEO of Wellstar asking [her] to number one, reconsider this path, or two, at least give the people of that area, the hospitals nearby--Grady, Emory Midtown—an opportunity to figure out how they are going to absorb the patients that would have been seen at Atlanta Medical Center," said Sen. Warnock.
Walker said there is a lot more to the closure than what meets the eye.
"So I think what people need to do first is talk to Wellstar and see what the problem is, then try to solve that problem," said Walker.
Sen. Warnock also said expanding Medicaid in Georgia would "go a long way" toward helping relieve some of the strain on the state's healthcare systems.
Walker seemed to break with fellow Republicans when asked whether he thinks Georgia should expand Medicaid.
"I think everyone should be given what we promised to give them," said Walker.
THE GREAT DEBATE
The debate over debates heated up again this week as Sen. Warnock's campaign challenged Walker to stop "dodging" debates.
After the May primary, Sen. Warnock publicly committed to three debates—one in Atlanta, one in Macon and one in Savannah.
Walker later agreed to a different Savannah debate scheduled for Oct. 14.
Tuesday, Sen. Warnock offered to switch to the Savannah debate of Walker's choice if Walker agreed to either the Macon or Atlanta matchups and agreed that the candidates do "not need to be provided with topics prior" to the Savannah event.
"He said he'd debate me anytime, anywhere and so, look, here's the bottom line, the people of Georgia deserve to hear what we intend to do on their behalf. After all, this is a job and if you want folks to hire you, you ought to sit for the interview," Sen. Warnock said Wednesday.
Walker, however, accused Warnock of ‘just talking.’
"I'm gonna tell him right now, he's afraid to debate me and I know it. So, if he's not afraid, show up on Oct. 14 in Savannah, Georgia. So, it will be televised statewide, and we can debate. And then we can talk about all the other stuff, but right now he don't want to debate. He's just throwing something else out there. If he wanted to debate, put your big man pants on and quit complaining," said Walker.