What to Know About Herschel Walker’s Residency Status in Georgia
Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate in Georgia’s Senate runoff, revealed in a financial disclosure statement that his Atlanta residence was being used as a rental property as recently as 2021.
Tax and assessment records in Fulton County, Ga., listed Mr. Walker’s wife, Julie Blanchard, as the sole owner of the 1.5-acre property in northwest Atlanta, further undermining the candidate’s narrative about his Georgia residency in the fiercely contested Dec. 6 runoff against Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat.
On a financial disclosure form required by the Senate for incumbents and candidates, Mr. Walker reported in May that the “Georgia residence” had generated between $15,001 and $50,000 in rental income in 2021 for his spouse. The revelations were reported earlier by The Daily Beast.
Here is what to know about the questions surrounding where Mr. Walker lives:
Does a candidate have to live in the state they are running to represent?
No, though the Constitution requires senators to reside in the state they represent after they are elected.
The details about the property in Georgia emerged one week after media reports that Mr. Walker received a tax exemption on his Texas home that is meant for primary residents of the state.
Georgia Senate Runoff: What to Know
Another runoff in Georgia. The contest between Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, will be decided in a Dec. 6 runoff. It will be the state’s third Senate runoff in two years. Here’s a look at the race:
What is a runoff election? A runoff is essentially a rematch, held when none of the original candidates meet the criteria for winning. Under Georgia law, candidates must receive a majority of the vote to win an election, but Mr. Warnock and Mr. Walker both failed to clear the 50 percent threshold in the Nov. 8 election.
How long will the process take? Two years ago, Georgia was the site of two Senate runoffs that weren’t decided until January 2021, but a new election law shortened the runoff period from nine weeks to four. This year’s runoff will be on Dec. 6, with early voting beginning on Nov. 28, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Why does Georgia have a runoff law? Georgia’s runoff law was created in the 1960s as a way to preserve white political power in a majority-white state and diminish the influence of Black politicians who could more easily win in a multicandidate race with a plurality of the vote, according to a report by the U.S. Interior Department.
What are the stakes? Even though Democratic victories in Arizona and Nevada ensured that the party would hold the Senate, a victory by Mr. Warnock would give Democrats an important 51st seat ahead of a highly challenging Senate map in 2024.
Where does the race stand now? Both sides are pouring money into ads and courting national allies for visits. But the outcome will probably come down to one big factor: turnout. With the shortened window for runoffs, the parties are investing heavily to mobilize voters during the early voting period.
Mr. Walker listed the home in Atlanta as the address for his Senate campaign on an initial filing in August last year with the Federal Election Commission, just before declaring his candidacy. A campaign spokesman for Mr. Walker did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
So why does it matter?
Mr. Walker, a college football legend at the University of Georgia, has presented himself to voters as “Georgia born, Georgia bred and when I die, I’ll be Georgia dead.” But he has been dogged by accusations of being a carpetbagger in the close, nationally watched race, which he was pressed into by former President Donald J. Trump.
At a news conference held on Tuesday by Georgia Democrats, Mr. Walker’s critics said that he had repeatedly misrepresented critical details about his residency, personal life and credentials.
“Georgians need to elect someone that lives in Georgia,” said Dewey McClain, a state representative who also played in the National Football League like Mr. Walker.“In other words, Herschel Walker has not been honest with Georgians about where his home is. He tried to game the system and he’s gotten caught.”
Some Democrats called on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to determine whether Mr. Walker had voted illegally in that state or had falsely attested that he was a resident. A spokeswoman for the bureau said in an email on Tuesday that it had not received a request to investigate the matter.
What has Mr. Walker said about whether he resides in Georgia?
In an interview posted in September by Rolling Out, a multimedia company, Mr. Walker said that he often stayed at a hotel in Atlanta instead of his residence of “about 17 years” because of the upkeep involved in maintaining the home.
“What’s strange is I sit on a board of hotels, and so when I come back to Atlanta I hardly ever came back to this house because I’d stay at the hotel,” Mr. Walker said in the interview at the Atlanta residence. “Because not that I’m lazy. I didn’t want to clean up. When you open up a house, you have to fix it up and do all this. So it’s easier to stay at a hotel and not come to the house.”
Fulton County listed the Atlanta residence’s fair market value this year as $853,800.
Mr. Walker said that he grew up about two-and-a-half hours away in the middle of the state, where he noted that he has a house and his mother lives.
What is a homestead exemption?
Homestead exemptions, offered in many states, are generally geared toward giving homeowners a tax break on their primary residence.
In Texas, Mr. Walker received an exemption of roughly $1,500 for his home in the Dallas area, which he listed as his primary residence. He has received the tax relief for that home since 2012, according to an official in the tax appraisal office of Tarrant County, where Mr. Walker’s Texas home is located. The program requires recipients to own and occupy the home as their principal residence.
In Atlanta, no homestead exemptions were in place for the property associated with Mr. Walker, according to Jessica A. Corbitt-Dominguez, a spokeswoman for Fulton County. There were no pending applications for tax relief, either.
Is the Texas homestead arrangement illegal?
No. According to the Texas Comptroller’s office, recipients of homestead exemptions can continue to receive them if they temporarily move away from their home. Mr. Walker is barred from establishing a principal residence elsewhere under the program’s conditions, but he would still be eligible for the tax break if he intended to return to his home in Texas and moved away for less than two years.
What’s at stake in the race?
Democrats are eager to hold on to the seat, which would give them an outright majority in the Senate — meaning they would no longer need to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tiebreaking vote in the split Senate and would claim one-seat majorities on committees. Such an outright majority would help them move legislation forward and confirm judges and presidential nominees and give them breathing room if a party moderate breaks ranks.