About 90 people turned out for a campaign stop by GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker Tuesday morning in Jonesboro. The Clayton Crescent was the only news media present at the event.
Walker did not explicitly commit to debating Warnock at the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young debates, but hinted that he was open to it.
“Well, right now I think we have one October 14 [in Savannah], and then, well, we’re gonna try to see what he [Warnock] is gonna do,” Walker told The Clayton Crescent.
A brief shower threatened to drive the rally inside Crane Hardware as stagehands hustled flags and amplifiers into the store’s shed. But the clouds passed just before Walker’s tour bus rolled up.
CCGARP’s events chair and secretary Arlene Charles told the crowd, “Like most of you, I support Herschel because he’s like us. Most of us are from the country. We are from the country, right? And he has not forgotten where he comes from. Out of all the events that I have attended with him, he is very personable, he doesn’t mind taking pictures, signing footballs, helmets, and anything….So as we get ready to welcome the young man who doesn’t mind saying he’s from Wrightsville, Georgia, that he is one of us, he is gonna fight for us, not forget us, so today you have the opportunity to let him know who you are and what your issues are. Not too many, I hope. So let’s welcome Mr. Herschel Candidate Walker!”
Walker stepped off the bus and enveloped her in a bear hug. He then gave his standard stump speech, starting with the joke about the elevator and ending with the joke about the bulls where the grass is greener.
LISTEN: Herschel Walker stump speech, Crane Hardware
Charles and two children then presented Walker with a gift bag. He asked them their names and ages, then asked to meet their parents.
Another shower forced everyone under the eaves again for several minutes, but the meet-and-greet went on as planned.
GALLERY: Herschel Walker stump speech, Crane Hardware, Jonesboro (Photos: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)
Two things stood out about Walker’s visit: his delivery was polished and he took time to greet a long line of supporters seeking photos, autographs, and a moment of the candidate’s time.
His campaign staff tried to get him back on schedule, but Walker kept meeting just one more person. The police chief of Woodbury, Jesse O’Neal, who drove all the way from Meriwether County, pulled up after the speech in his patrol car and buttonholed Walker for several minutes: “What are you going to do for us in law enforcement?”
When Walker finally did get on the bus, he met with a couple of local politicos for the better part of half an hour. Then, he got off the bus again to meet a woman who had driven a long way to see him.
“They had no choice because they’d driven so far,” Charles said later, “and he heard them, and he had to make sure she got a picture with him.”
A couple of first responders pulled up, hoping at least to catch a glimpse of the Heisman Trophy winner from Wrightsville.
Several elected officials were in the audience, including Jonesboro councilmembers Bobby Lester, Billy Powell, and Tracey Messick and District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis. While Davis is a Democrat, he said that he wanted to hear what Walker had to say, that the people at the rally were his constituents.
Also present were members of the Clayton County Georgia Republican Party, including president Garrett Ashley and his mother, Della; Morrow’s Hue Nguyen, accompanied by two Vietnamese veterans in uniform; Rev. C.H. Braddy, who said he had gotten to know Walker several years ago at a conference; and members of the Henry County Republican Party, among others.
Finally, Walker and his wife got into a pickup truck for what she said was a quick trip to Washington by plane for a meeting, leaving the campaign team to pack up the gear and drive the bus to its next stop.
“I thought the speech was positive,” Charles said. “It was what I believe that, not only our county but the country, needs to hear. It was genuine; it was not pre-prompt or whatever, it was from his heart. And that’s what I like. He’s not a politician and thank God he’s not.”
At least one unidentified woman in the crowd was more skeptical, asking, “If you lied before, how do I know you’re not gonna lie when you get to Washington?”
Harrison Braddy (Rev. C.H. Braddy), who said he met Walker at a conference several years ago, said, “He is a non-political guy. I like Herschel in that he actually has a heart for people, knowing him behind the scenes. He has a heart for the people….I’m a freethinker. I’m not far right or far left, I’m just look at policy, look at what’s good for our country.”
Braddy added that, if Walker is elected to Congress, he wants him to keep that heart.
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