In a campaign speech earlier this year, Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for US Senate in Georgia, said: “I live in Texas.”
Walker will face the Democratic incumbent, Raphael Warnock, in a runoff next Tuesday, a contest triggered after Warnock received the most votes on election day but did not pass 50% of the vote. Polling puts the two candidates near-level, with early voting at record levels.
Control of the Senate has already been decided but victory in Georgia would give Democrats outright control by 51-49.
Endorsed by Donald Trump, Walker has ridden controversies over his business record, alleged encouragement of abortions, family relationships, and more.
A football star for the University of Georgia, he went on to star for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. Earlier this month, CNN reported that he was benefiting from a tax break on a Dallas home described as his principal residence.
On Tuesday, CNN returned to the well, reporting that in January, while discussing immigration policy in a speech to Republicans at the University of Georgia, Walker said: “I live in Texas … I went down to the border off and on sometimes.”
Walker also said: “Everyone asks me, why did I decide to run for a Senate seat? Because to be honest with you, this is never something I ever, ever, ever thought in my life I’d ever do. And that’s the honest truth.
“As I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas, and I was seeing what was going on in this country. I was seeing what was going on in this country with how they were trying to divide people.”
CNN also said Walker gave at least four interviews about his Georgia run from his Texas home.
Republicans have been burned by a similar issue already this year, in another close race vital to control of the Senate. In Pennsylvania, the Democratic candidate, John Fetterman, focused on questions about whether his opponent, the TV doctor Mehmet Oz, actually lived in New Jersey. Fetterman ultimately won convincingly.
The US constitution says senators must be 30 years old, a citizen for nine years, and “shall … when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen”.
When CNN first reported Walker’s Texas tax break, Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, told the network: “This is more of a political problem than a legal one … where Walker can be painted as a carpetbagger.”
This week, however, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a legal complaint had been filed, urging “state investigators … to probe whether … Walker violated the law by receiving a tax break on his Texas home meant for primary residents of that state even as he runs for federal office in Georgia”.
The paper noted that Walker registered to vote in Georgia in August 2021, shortly before declaring his candidacy.
Nikema Williams, chair of the state Democratic party, told the AJC Walker may have “lied about being a Georgia resident”.
“Georgians deserve answers,” the US congresswoman said, “and Walker must be held accountable for his pattern of lies and disturbing conduct.”
The Walker campaign did not comment.