Obama heads to Georgia as Herschel Walker faces new violence claim

<span>Photograph: Cheney Orr/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Cheney Orr/Reuters
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Barack Obama will campaign for Raphael Warnock in Georgia on Thursday night, as early voting in the US Senate runoff closes and as Herschel Walker, the Republican challenger to the Democratic incumbent, faces yet more controversy.

Related: ‘I live in Texas’: Herschel Walker speech adds to Georgia Senate run problems

On Thursday, a former girlfriend told the Daily Beast that in 2005, when she caught Walker with another woman, he “grew enraged, put his hands on her chest and neck, and swung his fist at her”.

“I thought he was going to beat me,” Cheryl Parsa said, adding that she “fled in fear”.

Four other women told the Beast they had relationships with Walker, describing “a habit of lying and infidelity – including one woman who claimed she had an affair with Walker while he was married in the 1990s”.

Parsa, who the Beast said had “composed a book-length manuscript about her relationship with Walker”, called the former college and NFL football star “a pathological liar”.

Walker has often discussed his struggle with dissociative identity disorder.

Parsa said: “He knows how to manipulate his disease, in order to manipulate people, while at times being simultaneously completely out of control.”

She also said that when she was with Walker, he used his disorder as an “alibi” to “justify lying, cheating, and ultimately destroying families”.

Walker did not comment.

The latest Daily Beast story joins a line of reports about his life before entering Republican politics and securing Donald Trump’s endorsement and with it the nomination in Georgia.

Walker is alleged to have pressured women to have abortions, behaved violently, and lied about his business career and supposed ties to law enforcement. Recently he has been shown to have benefited from a tax break for living in Texas, and to have said his home is in that state.

Walker and Warnock face the runoff because Warnock did not pass 50% of the vote while winning on midterms election day last month. Polling remains tight.

Control of the Senate has been decided, in part because a series of Trump-endorsed candidates flopped, but a Warnock win would give Democrats a 51-49 majority, removing the need to rely on the vote of Kamala Harris, the vice-president.

In record early voting, Georgians have cast more than a million ballots already.

This week, Walker told Fox News: “The people right now are having their voices heard, and their vote counted, and I’m happy with the turnout because I think it looks good for me.”

But the two parties have taken different approaches. Democrats have sought to bank as many early votes as possible while Republicans, especially Walker, have taken a less aggressive approach that could leave them dependent on election day turnout.

Speaking to the New York Times, Jason Shepherd, a former chairman of the Cobb county Republican party, said: “We almost need a little bit more time for Herschel’s campaign to get everything off the ground … I think we’re behind the eight ball on this one.”

As he campaigned this week, Warnock compared voting to waiting in line at a popular Atlanta lunch spot.

Related: Record early voting in runoff for Georgia Senate seat

“I think the turnout we’re seeing is good, and I want to encourage people to stick with it,” Warnock said. “The other day I went to the Slutty Vegan, and the line was wrapped around the block, and folks still waited and got their sandwiches. I went and voted yesterday, and it was pretty painless.”

Since leaving the White House in 2017, Obama has proved an effective campaign surrogate for Democrats from Joe Biden – who won Georgia in 2020, the first Democrat to do so since 1992 – down to congressional races.

When Obama last campaigned in Georgia, he told supporters: “Some of you may not remember, but Herschel Walker was a heck of a football player.

“But here’s the question: does that make him the best person to represent you in the US Senate? Does that make him equipped to weigh in on the critical decisions about our economy and our foreign policy and our future?”

  • Associated Press contributed reporting