Democratic senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker sparred over abortion, inflation, and the evictions of low-income tenants from Warnock's church-owned low-income apartment complex during their first debate on Friday.
While Walker significantly downplayed expectations ahead of the debate, describing himself as a "country boy, you know, I’m not that smart," he managed to get in a few attacks against Warnock while avoiding any fatal missteps.
Warnock touted his own vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, which he said reduced the price of insulin for people with diabetes, and criticized Walker for opposing it. Walker shot back that the bill "didn't reduce inflation" overall.
"I believe in reducing insulin, but at the same time you gotta eat right. Unless you're eating right, insulin is doing you no good," said Walker. "Right now families are hurting, they're hurting because of the bills you're passing right now."
When asked about his views on abortion, Warnock declined to say if he believed there should be any limitations on how late in a pregnancy the procedure can take place. But he gave a strong defense of abortion access, arguing that a "patients' room is too narrow and small and cramped a space for a woman, her doctor, and the United States government."
"We are witnessing right now when politicians, most of them men, pile into patient's rooms," said Warnock.
Walker responded that he was personally "a Christian, I believe in life," and said he hadn't "seen too many pastors" who openly support abortions.
"I heard about [Warnock], I heard he was a neat talker," said Walker. "But did he not mention that there's a baby in that room as well? And did he not mention that he asking the taxpayer to pay for it? So he bringing the government back into the room."
The debate moderators also pressed Warnock over a bombshell Washington Free Beacon report, which found that a low-income housing building owned by the Ebenezer Baptist Church—where Warnock still serves as CEO and senior pastor—has attempted to evict numerous residents for late rent payments.
Warnock denied the report, and said the story was an attempt to "sully the name of Martin Luther King Jr.'s church and John Lewis's church" by a "desperate candidate."
Walker: "He won't answer that about evicting the people from the church.."
Warnock: "We have not evicted those tenets."
Walker: "He's now telling you 'I didn't evict anyone.' It is written in the paper!..Senator, you did! It's okay to speak the truth. Do not bear false witness! pic.twitter.com/YxBzjr8XeX
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) October 14, 2022
"We spend every day every week feeding the hungry, and the homeless. They know that those false charges that they created are not true," said Warnock.
The Free Beacon report was based on a dozen eviction lawsuits that Warnock's church-owned apartment building publicly filed against residents since the start of the pandemic—including against one tenant who owed just $29 in back rent. The state of Georgia has launched an investigation into the church based on the Free Beacon report.
"Just to clarify, your position is that the allegations in these lawsuits aren't true?" asked the moderator.
"I am saying it's very obvious that my opponent and his allies are busy trying to sully Ebenezer Baptist Church," claimed Warnock.