The much-anticipated debate between Herschel Walker and Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock is expected to help determine who voters choose to represent the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate for the next six years.
And there are two people in particular who will help facilitate what optimists likely hope will be a civil discussion about the issues between the two political rivals: The debate’s moderators.
But the debate in Savannah on Friday night may upend those hopes in a race that has been marked by the revelations of scandals not necessarily related to politics that have the potential to affect the course of the face-off between Walker and Warnock. To be sure, local news anchors Tina Tyus-Shaw of WSAV-TV in Savannah and Buck Lanford of WAGA-TV in Atlanta have their work cut out for them.
Who are the Herschel Walker-Warnock debate moderators?
Before we get to know more about the neutral parties charged with keeping the debate on topic, asking questions and enforcing time limits for answers to those questions, it’s important to understand exactly what is at stake in this election as well as all of the 2022 midterm elections scheduled for next month.
This Senate election in Georgia could be yet another referendum on Donald Trump, who eagerly endorsed Walker, someone who has repeated widely debunked lies that the 2020 election was plagued by voter fraud.
On the other hand, Warnock — the democratic incumbent who made history last year as the first Black U.S. Senator from Georgia after winning a special election — represents a political faction that has made it a point to refute conspiracy theories that undermine democracy in the U.S.
It is in that context that Tyus-Shaw and Lanford are expected to broker a substantive discussion that is likely to include the aforementioned scandals, like the accusation that Walker — an avowed pro-lifer — encouraged and paid for an abortion for his ex-girlfriend who claims she also bore his child during an extramarital affair.
Tyus-Shaw has spent more than 30 years working at WSAV-TV, where she anchors newscasts from the afternoon into the late evening on weekdays, according to her official bio on the news station’s website. The HBCU graduate of Tennessee State University began as a reporter and weekend anchor at WSAV-TV in 1992 and has called Savannah home ever since.
Friday night’s event appears to be the first time she’s moderated a debate of such magnitude. She has said one of the highlights of her career was being selected as a torchbearer for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, “continuing my family Olympic tradition started by my Aunt, Wyomia Tyus, a two-time 100-meter gold medalist in 1964 and 1968.”
Tyus-Shaw said she’s ready for the debate and on Thursday tweeted a series of photos and a video of herself getting prepared for a newscast as apparent proof.
“I’ve been preparing for Georgia’s Senate Debate for weeks. What an intense & amazing process,” Tyus-Shaw wrote in her tweet. “My makeup artist Verando Marshall has been with me every step of the way. I cannot thank you enough “V”! Now the main event!!!!”
While Lanford has worked at WAGA-TV since the 90s, he is also connected to Savannah where he was a sports anchor on the weekends for the local channel WTOC.
While there’s no mention in Lanford’s bio about whether he’s worked a debate before, it does mention that “Buck has covered it all.”
Lanford took to Twitter on Thursday morning to tweet a photo of the venue in Savannah where the debate is being held.
Friday night is expected to be the only opportunity to see Walker and Warnock debate each other.
There were previously reports circulating that Walker refused to debate Warnock in Savannah unless he was provided the debate topics in advance. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Walker’s campaign aides have said that isn’t true, but, Warnock’s campaign manager seemingly thought otherwise just last month.
“It’s time for Herschel Walker to stop playing games,” Quentin Fulks said just about a month ago. “The job of a U.S. senator isn’t one where you know the topics ahead of time or get a cheat sheet, and Herschel Walker shouldn’t need one to find the courage to walk on a debate stage.”
Before that, it appeared that Walker was scrounging for any excuse for not debating Warnock.
At another debate scheduled for Thursday night in Macon, Walker previously said he didn’t want to debate Warnock because millions of Americans would be distracted by Sunday night football games.
“You’ve got people that are contributors to his campaign and it’s in this room that only two people gonna see it on a Sunday night, I think,” Walker said in August. He went on to appeal to “NFL Football” so voters “can see what it is, see the contrast between the two of us. I don’t know how you can ask for anything better.”