(JNS) — While Georgia is not known for its Jewish population, the state’s competitive Senate race is grabbing the attention of Jewish organizations on both sides of the political spectrum as Democratic incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican former University of Georgia and NFL star athlete Herschel Walker face off.
Both candidates have been endorsed by pro-Israel organizations along partisan lines with the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) endorsing Walker on June 15 and having since hosted fundraisers for him.
Warnock, who is seeking his first full term after winning a special election for the seat over Republican Kelly Loeffler in 2020, appears to have ingratiated himself to Jewish Democratic groups over two years in the Senate despite having been attacked in his first campaign for his praise of anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.
Latest polls show the race to be statistically tied despite Warnock outspending Walker by approximately five to one so far.
“Elections are about trends and trajectories—and the trend lines in the Georgia U.S. Senate race are clear: This is a margin of error race, and Herschel Walker is on the rise,” Sam Markstein, national political director for RJC, said. “This isn’t a surprise: Radical Raphael Warnock has been exposed as a rubber stamp for the disastrous Biden agenda—voting with Biden 96 percent of the time—that has resulted in skyrocketing costs of living, an unprecedented rise in crime, and foreign policy that has abandoned Israel and emboldened Iran.
“For months, the RJC has been working hard on the ground in Georgia—knocking [on] doors, making phone calls, sending text messages and organizing grassroots engagement events—to turn out the Jewish vote for Herschel Walker, which could very well make the decisive difference in this race,” Markstein said.
The Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) PAC endorsed Warnock on July 28, citing his pro-Israel record, despite Warnock also having the endorsement of the J Street PAC.
In this election, pro-Israel groups no longer fear that Warnock’s progressive ideology will lead to him being an anti-Israel senator as they did during the 2020 election.
DMFI PAC chairman Mark Mellman told JNS that his organization met with Warnock and his staff during the last election to assess his views on Israel. They endorsed Warnock after being satisfied with his answers and position paper and so far, according to Mellman, Warnock has kept his commitments.
“He’s voted right on the core issues that have been up for votes,” Mellman said. “I think from the community’s perspective, he’s voted right, he’s spoken well on Israel issues, on anti-Semitism, and in general, he’s done a great job for Georgia and his constituents.”
Warnock’s campaign has also touted his pro-Israel record, highlighting the fact that he is a member of the Senate’s Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations.
Warnock also supported pro-Israel elements of the 2022 and 2023 appropriations bills that provided additional funds for Iron Dome interceptors for Israel and an increase in security grants to U.S. nonprofit institutions, such as synagogues and community centers, that are at risk of terrorist attacks.
He also signed onto a letter that urged Senate leaders to provide full funding for U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs in the 2023 defense appropriations bill.
In March, Warnock cosponsored the Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021 that pushed for American policy to prioritize diplomatic efforts to normalize Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors. That same month, he joined a letter urging U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to push for the United Nations to end its Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Israel.
In June, Warnock joined in another letter opposing the downgrade of the military rank of the United States security coordinator in Jerusalem, and in July, he cosponsored the Stop Iranian Drones Act, which sought to prevent Iran and its terrorist affiliates from being able to acquire lethal drones.
“In the U.S. Senate and as a faith leader in his community, Reverend Warnock has supported Israel as our strongest ally in the Middle East—voting for aid to Israel, standing up to efforts that would compromise stability in the region, and supporting efforts to combat anti-Semitism,” Warnock’s communication director Meredith Brasher told JNS.
Despite their candidate not having a political record, the Walker campaign provided JNS with an Israel statement. In it he promises to “strive to strengthen” ties between the United States and Israel.
“As senator, my focus regarding Israel will be on increasing national security, fighting anti-Semitism and expanding mutually beneficial trade between our countries, which will bring direct benefits to Georgia,” Walker said in the statement. “As a devout Christian, my faith tells me that the people of Israel are God’s chosen people and we must do whatever we can to protect them.”
Walker’s statement expounds by saying that he will oppose efforts to defund the Iron Dome and believes that America’s security is enhanced when it has stronger ties to Israel’s military and intelligence services.
He would also oppose efforts to scapegoat Israel in the United Nations and fight against anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts.
Walker called the Abraham Accords—which were signed under President Donald Trump, who endorsed Walker in his GOP primary—among the Trump administration’s greatest accomplishments. He promised to continue supporting efforts to have more Arab countries reach normalization agreements with Israel.
Walker said that he believes that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must come from bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, without the interference of the U.N., but that the Palestinians must be willing to come to the table and negotiate in good faith.
He described Palestinian violence against Israeli as terrorism and said that he supports the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits American foreign aid from going to the Palestinian Authority unless the U.S. State Department can certify that the aid is not going towards payments of Palestinians imprisoned for acts of terror against Israel or to the families of terrorists killed while committing terrorist attacks against Israelis.
“There has also been a distressing rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric on the left side of American politics, and even by some elected members of Congress,” Walker wrote in the statement, referring to the anti-Israel rhetoric often used by progressive members of Congress who make up the “Squad.”
“There is room for disagreement on policy, but we must not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form,” Walker said.
Markstein added, “Don’t forget: Warnock called Israel a ‘land of violence and bloodshed’ and even praised notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan after Farrakhan called Jews ‘termites.’ ”
But Warnock’s staff argues that Walker ignores and even benefits from Republican members of Congress who have also made anti-Semitic statements, such as his financial ties to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and for refusing to condemn the organizers of an event he was supposed to speak at before canceling due to the organizer’s use of a swastika on social media.
“While Reverend Warnock continues to support Israel and Georgia’s Jewish community, Herschel Walker has refused to condemn the use of a swastika or stand up to his allies who align themselves with hateful, anti-Semitic rhetoric, showing again the clear choice voters have this fall,” Brasher said.