Georgia U.S. Senate debate.jpg

Republican candidates for Georgia's U.S. Senator addressed several topics during a May 3 debate hosted by GPB and Atlanta Press Club. Candidate Herschel Walker declined an invitation to the debate and his vacant podium is seen at far right.  

Screenshot from the Georgia U.S. Senate Republican Debate live video

ATLANTA— In the wake of a leaked draft opinion of the Supreme Court overturning abortion protections decided in Roe v. Wade, the topic quickly became a focus during the Republican candidate debate for Georgia’s U.S. Senate race Tuesday.

According to the leaked draft obtained by Politico Monday, the Court asserts that abortion in not a right guaranteed in the constitution. If the Court moves forward with that ruling, several states are planning to quickly pass bans on abortions.  

Republican candidates in the U.S. Senate race appear to all support banning abortion at the federal level.  

Currently the state’s agriculture commissioner, Gary Black said simply that he supports a total abortion ban.

Business owner Josh Clark said life is a “God-given right” and plans to introduce a personhood amendment with no exceptions for rape and incest, if elected.      

Part of Clark’s campaign message targets overturning abortion protections. During his time as a state legislature, he helped champion and pass the “Fetal Pain Bill,” which ended abortions after 20 weeks in Georgia.

“…They asked…’What happens if they rape your daughter?’ And I said, first of all, we're going to either put the child up for adoption or we're going to raise that child, but why should the child be murdered for the sins of the father?” Clark said. “Sometimes that's even a tear jerker when I think about that, so no, there should not be exceptions. And yes, I will work hard to pass that.”

Kelvin King, a general contractor, said every child should be given an opportunity, referencing his own personal situation.  

“When you look at how a child born out of order is able to create a successful business and attend the Air Force Academy like myself…There's opportunity, even though you may be unintended,” King said during the debate, hosted by Georgia Public Broadcasting and Atlanta Press Club.

Military veteran Jonathan McColumn said communities should provide resources to assist women in carrying out their pregnancy and caring for a child. 

“It's another thing to ask someone to not have an abortion when you're not allowing or making the way for perhaps, adoptions and mechanisms to help people who do go through and carry out the pregnancies throughout the terms,” McColumn responded. “…We can all do this together and help take care of those kids that people for whom a woman agreed to carry out their pregnancies to ensure that life continues, but we have a mechanism of continuous support.”

Formers Navy SEAL Latham Saddler said the leaked draft is great first step.  

“I think we need to be compassionate on this issue as conservatives,” said Saddler, who also served as a director for Intelligence Programs for the National Security Council under the Trump administration. “Every pro life advocate I know demonstrates compassion to expecting mothers, and I think that's incumbent on all of us to be this way. But I do support, and I do support codifying it at the national level.”

Herschel Walker, who is considered the frontrunner in the Republican primary, declined the invitation to participate in the debate. He did respond to the Court’s leaked draft on his Twitter account.

“The Supreme Court document is an absolute disgrace and an attempt to intimidate the court. The leaker should be prosecuted the full extent to the law.”

He later added: “I am pro-life and Senator Warnock is not.”

The victor in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat will face lone Democrat candidate and incumbent Raphael Warnock in November.

Following the news of the leaked draft, Warnock tweeted his support of the “urgent” need to pass Women’s Health Protection Act, a federal proposal to protect a woman’s decision on whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.

“These are decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor — not the government,” Warnock stated.  

During the Republican debate, candidates highlighted Walker’s absence in participating in debates, many using his absence to highlight themselves as the better candidate.  

“We need a leader and a fighter that's going to show up to defeat Raphael Warnock in November. Raphael Warnock is a very smooth operator,” said Saddler, boasting his SEAL and Trump White House experience. “We got to see him in action this last election cycle, and we need somebody that's going to hold him accountable.”

McColumn referenced his 35 years experience in the Army where he “showed up” whenever asked.  

“That's one thing that you can know in me that if I can do this for 35 years and represent you, the United States of America and represent Georgia, then I can do the same thing and representing Georgia and that's what I plan to do —to return power to the people which is where it belongs in accordance with the Constitution of the United States of America,” McColumn said. 

King considers himself the most “well-rounded candidate," referencing his plans to prioritize national defense and military, and protecting constitutional rights if elected.

Clark said he’s the only candidate with proven leadership and legislative experience to bring to the Georgia U.S. Senate seat. 

“Right after high school start rolling up my sleeves to help get constitutional conservatives elected,” Clark said. “And then I served two terms in the Georgia House myself and then left unopposed and went back to private life. But I'm stepping up because we need somebody who has experience and can be ready on day one when I get there, and I'm gonna bring tie breaking votes that can serve the citizens of Georgia from day one.”

Black, and other candidates agree that despite Walker being the frontrunner in the Republican race, he would not be able to defeat Warnock in November. Black attacked the former football star’s domestic violence allegations and what he called “despicable” business deals. 

“I believe Georgians  want somebody that's going to secure the borders and work with teams to do so,” Black said. “…That’s going to fight this inflation that's affecting all of our families, and cut spending and  actually balance the federal budget. I have the experience. I have the background and the leadership, decision-making experience to do this job.” 

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