ATLANTA — In his campaign for the Senate, Herschel Walker has not hidden his past struggles with mental illness and violence in past relationships, features of his background that he outlined in a 2009 memoir and that his campaign sought to handle in its earliest days.
Now, a gaggle of anti-Trump Republicans is hammering him over one among those episodes.
In a latest commercial running on major networks within the Atlanta media market, footage of Mr. Walker scoring a touchdown for the University of Georgia is juxtaposed with close-up video of his ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, describing how he once held a gun to her temple and threatened to drag the trigger.
“Do you’re thinking that Herschel Walker?” a narrator asks. “Well, reconsider.”
Mr. Walker has not denied Ms. Grossman’s accusations, saying his violence against her was a consequence of his struggles with mental health. His campaign didn’t reply to a request for comment.
The ads were purchased by a subsidiary of the Republican Accountability PAC, a gaggle that grew out of Republican Voters Against Trump, which was established in 2020 by “never-Trump” Republicans including the strategist Sarah Longwell and the author William Kristol. It says it has allocated $10 million in negative promoting and voter mobilization efforts over the subsequent three months to stop Mr. Walker and other candidates it views as unfit for office or a danger to democracy. They include two candidates for governor, Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Kari Lake in Arizona.
The initial ad buy against Mr. Walker within the Atlanta media market is just $100,000. It might take way more to make serious inroads with Georgia’s vast Republican base, for whom Mr. Walker still retains near-godlike status from his profession as a school running back. However the anti-Trump group is hoping a minimum of to show the heads of some swing voters.
Specifically, Ms. Longwell, the group’s executive director, said it hoped to use what she called an emerging gap in support for candidates atop Georgia’s Republican ticket. While Mr. Walker was running roughly even within the polls with Senator Raphael Warnock, the incumbent Democrat, she said, Gov. Brian Kemp was outpacing his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, by a rather larger margin.
“We expect that there’s loads of these voters in Georgia who will split their ticket, and who will vote for Kemp, who will vote for Brad Raffensperger, but cannot vote for Herschel Walker,” she said, also naming the Georgia secretary of state. “For loads of these voters, it’s about understanding the difference between the football player and the person running for Senate.”
One such voter she pointed to was Brenda James, a Republican from Columbus, Ga., who in an interview said she voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 but President Biden in 2020. She condemned Republicans for “attempting to govern and use” Mr. Walker.
“Bless poor Herschel’s heart,” Ms. James said. “The person needs help. He doesn’t have to be thrust into political limelight in the best way that they’re doing. Frankly, I feel it’s disgusting and despicable.”