early and often

Herschel Walker Can’t Shake His Texas Residency Problem

The question of Herschel Walker’s background and identity keeps bedeviling him. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

When Donald Trump and other Republicans talked Herschel Walker into moving back to his native Georgia from Texas to run for the U.S. Senate in 2022, there were two story lines that were in immediate tension. Walker was a Georgia native who achieved sports immortality as a running back for the University of Georgia four decades ago. But after signing his first professional football contract with Trump’s New Jersey Generals, Walker’s career took him away from his roots and eventually landed him in Texas, where he launched a career in business and motivational speaking. And even as Republicans sought to lure Walker into a Senate race, they recognized it was a bit of a problem that he no longer lived in Georgia and had in fact accepted tax breaks as someone with a “primary residence” elsewhere.

The residency issue got attention well before Walker actually announced his candidacy, as this August 2021 report from Atlanta TV station 11-Alive showed:

Herschel Walker, who is weighing a U.S. Senate bid in Georgia, has lived in the same house near Dallas, Texas, for the last decade and has declared it his “homestead” for tax purposes.

He could keep the Texas exemption if he becomes an “inhabitant” in Georgia, long enough to qualify to serve in Congress, under the vague residency rules outlined in the U.S. Constitution. …

Tax records show Walker has lived in a gated community northwest of Dallas for ten years — in a house reportedly with a five-car garage now valued at $2.8 million. 

Records also show that Walker has taken a homestead exemption there — which is a tax break homeowners can get at their primary residence.

To get the break, “it must be a principal residence,” said Dr. Roy Black, who teaches property law at Emory University. “You can only have one principal residence. Second, third homes don’t count” for the homestead exemption tax break.

But now that he’s in a general-election runoff in which every vote matters, the issue of where Walker actually lives is receiving fresh scrutiny, in part spurred by the Georgia Democratic Party’s demand for an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into possible dual claims of residency by the candidate.

Walker’s Texas residency has always been more of a political than a legal problem for him. He did not claim a homestead exemption for a Georgia property he owned but did not live in, and the constitutional residency requirement only arises after someone has already been elected. But his Texas connection became something of a symbol of the suspicion among Republican primary opponents and Democrats alike that Walker was simply a political stooge whose celebrity made him a convenient front man for Trump and other politicians seeking a Black nominee to run against Black Democratic incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock. The former Heisman Trophy winner’s evasive campaign strategy and habit of bizarre statements reinforced this impression, even as more serious questions about his history of violence (complicated by a confessed mental-health condition), publicly unacknowledged children, and alleged financing of two ex-girlfriends’ abortions captured headlines.

Putting aside arcane real-estate and election-law issues — which aren’t going to be resolved by the December 6 runoff date — the renewed claims are part and parcel of an effort by Team Warnock and (more quietly) some Georgia Republican disparagers of the GOP nominee to depict him as a habitually duplicitous man whose heroic image has been left in tatters by this campaign. Walker’s character has become a subject his own campaign is giving a wide berth, relying instead on standard conservative attack ads on Warnock and Democrats generally, along with appeals to party solidarity. This once beloved figure whose legendary status led to his recruitment as a politician is now running as a generic Republican eager to talk about anything other than himself.

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Herschel Walker Can’t Shake His Texas Residency Problem